June 19, 2006

Choose Your Own "Adventure"

Filed under: India — Chris @ 6:58 pm

It is 11:30 at night and you are in an autorickshaw with a young woman you have only just recently met, trying to get home from the bus station. You have spent ten hours on a bus, driving on rural roads and are exhausted and hungry. The auto driver has ignored the name of the neighborhood you have asked to go to and taken you instead to another dis-similarly named neighborhood with a similarly named traffic circle. You have no idea where you are and the driver seems to have no idea where you want to go. Do you: (a) get out of the auto and find some other way to get home, this guy is obviously trouble, or (b) give the auto driver a second chance, it was an honest misunderstanding?

You chose (b).

You give the driver a second chance. He starts driving. At times he seems to be on the right track, but he keeps veering off on odd tangents. You are pretty sure you have driven past your destination and are now moving away from it, but you have no idea where you actually are. Do you: (a) stay in the auto, the driver will figure things out eventually, or (b) get the hell out, this guy is obviously an idiot?

You chose (b).

You tap on the driver’s shoulder and tell him you want to get out. He’s confused by this, which is not surprising—he’s been confused about pretty much everything that’s gone on since you got in his auto. Do you: (a) pay the man what you agreed (1.5 times the meter), he did his best, or (b) refuse to pay the man, he hasn’t gotten you where you wanted to go and he has run up the meter well past where it would be if he had done so directly?

You chose (b).

You refuse to pay the man. After all, it’s his job to know how to get around in the city and he has manifestly failed to do his job. The driver jumps out of his auto and demands to be paid. You continue to refuse. The driver asks you to accompany him to the police station. Do you: (a) go with him, you’re sure the police will be able to sort this out, or (b) make an obscene remark about the driver’s mother?

You chose (b).

In so many words, you inform the driver that his mother was neither chaste nor hygienic. Speaking just barely enough English to negotiate fares, he stares at you blankly for a moment, gets back into his auto, and drives away. You and your female companion are now alone on a dark street corner. You do not know where you are and you do not know which direction you need to go. Do you: (a) hail another rickshaw, he’s probably not an idiot and its not like they’re all in cahoots, or (b) call the company car service, this isn’t strictly speaking a business trip, but you’re running out of options?

You chose (b).

You call the company car service. They know you well by know, having brought you home drunk from Tobi and Deb’s flat and taken you to Commerical St. when you wanted to buy a backpack and even dropped you off at the bus station this morning when you set of for your Very Official Company Visit to Some Waterfalls. You tell them what you think you know about where you are and they say they’ll be there within 15 minutes. Around this time, the autorickshaw driver returns with a policeman in tow. Do you: (a) apologize and pay the driver, there’s no hope of convincing the policeman that you’re in the right, or (b) tell the policeman exactly what you told the driver (omitting the choicest bits about the driver’s mother), he’s probably a reasonable man who’s bound to see it your way?

You chose (b).

You tell the policeman it will be a cold day in Hell when you pay the auto driver. He patiently explains to you that autos have meters and it is customary for the passenger to pay the amount of the meter when he or she leaves the auto. The driver says something agitatedly in Kannada. You say something agitatedly in English. The policeman sighs. Do you: (a) continue your argument, it’s clear that your position is carrying the day, or (b) give the driver his damn money, it’s only 100 rupees?

You chose (b).

In a spirit of great magnanimity, you hand the driver a 100 rupee note. He isn’t satisfied! He doesn’t just want the money. He wants an opportunity to regain his pride by seeing you through to your destination. Do you: (a) get back in the rickshaw, the policeman probably knows the way and you’ve all learned a valuable lesson, or (b) swear another oath on the driver’s progenitors and refuse, you’ve had enough adventure for one evening?

You chose (b).

You tell the driver just exactly what you think of his bloodline. He gets back in his rickshaw and drives away. The policeman also goes on his way. Five minutes later, the company car arrives and you climb in. After a half kilometer, you realize where you are. In another kilometer, you are home. You realize that if you had carefully studied your map, you could have managed to walk home in less than 15 minutes time. Do you: (a) curl up and cry yourself to sleep, or (b) hold it in, burying your resentment until you finally snap?



  1. I salute your bravery in the perilous adventure that is taking an auto-rickshaw in the middle of the night. It was quite the anthropological experience and may very well be a legendary moment of this summer.

    Comment by cwei — June 20, 2006 @ 4:14 am

  2. I think the legendary moment of the summer will probably come when I slit the houseboy’s throat.

    Comment by Chris — June 20, 2006 @ 4:47 am

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