When my colleagues from office starting calling me motey (‘fat’ in Hindi), I decided to buy a bicycle to get rid of the flab that I’d acquired in my previous trip back home. However, the cycle is now a dusty still shiny piece of metalwork lying in one corner of the parking lot and I would go to call this one of my stupidest ideas to date; not because I knew for sure before buying the crooked thing that I would never take it out on my worked up weekdays and sleepy weekends, but because summer was just on its way. And when you know how hot it can get in Hyderabad, you DO NOT venture out from 7:30 in the morning to 6 in the evening (if you’re lucky) in your bicycle!
Coconuts cost 2 Rs more in the summer than any other time of the year, soft drink companies come up with new lime and lemon flavors and air conditioner sales touch record numbers. Apart from this, there is a different class of businessmen who try to bank on the summer time – rickshaw walas! It is the helplessness of the common Hyderabad junta that hands these rickshaw-walas their notoriety. Come a bad time, and you’d have these guys taking advantage of it. I had an encounter with one of them during my first monsoon in Hyderabad and trust me he quoted 100 bucks for less than 2 km. I couldn’t help but abuse him in the most non-Telugu manner (so as to not have him on my heels, in the rain that too) and storm off.
Hyderabad rickshaws are no work of art from the Montreal School of Design; they rock and rattle like a window in the storm and most of the time the seat comes out when you’re trying to sit. But you don’t have an option when you’re out in the searing sun and all you can think of is the Glucon-D ad where the sun’s trying to drink away all your fluids with a straw stuck to your head. You would like for the rickshaw drivers to turn on the meter when you’re out in such weather, but the more you sweat, the more they relent! Once a guy asked for 80 bucks to cross a flyover and take a small right turn. I asked him why I needed to pay him 80 bucks to travel to a place I can see standing there. He smirked and said “Kyunki sab utna hi maangenge” (Cos everybody’ll quote the same).
Not everybody is a villain of course, and sometimes when you do take the courage to ask if they would turn on the meter and if the distance seems considerable enough, they do reply back in the affirmative. Well, it is not everyday that you meet a guy like that, and during the journey you plan to bookmark this day in the calendar. Ah! A bit too soon I’d say, as the meter shows 18 km for a 13 km trip and you know that you’ve been had! You only find two types of meters here – ones that are tampered and ones that don’t work (“No batteries sir”). It’s been months since I have asked any of these guys to turn on the meter; at least if you negotiate on their number you can be assured of the shortest trip home.
All of this condemning for rickshaw drivers is because in Mumbai where I have lived all my life, you don’t find a rick driver with a quotation, they just want the destination and they decide whether to go or not, which most of the times they do, even though the decision lies not with them, but we don’t persist. Rickshaws are one a penny in Mumbai, and you don’t stay out long waiting for one. If only it was fair comparing Hyderabad to Mumbai, maybe I would have got the better of it. Currently, Mumbai losing their contest to Bangalore in the IPL; suddenly Hyderabad is a safer bet!