I take an auto-rickshaw to and from work everyday. I’m actually a little ashamed to admit this because in India it’s considered ballin’ to use an auto-rickshaw for transportation. I know now that I live in India and I’m paid in rupees and I shouldn’t convert to dollars but I can’t help but convert my daily auto-rickshaw ride to about 3 dollars per day – less than taking the NYC subway. Plus if you’ve ever seen the buses in India you would understand. Call me bougie if you want but I’ll pay a little extra for my comfort (comfort in the relative sense of the word).
Each day I stand outside my building waiting to hail an auto-rickshaw. For about a month I had the same driver everyday but then I got annoyed with having to talk to someone for the entire 30-minute ride to Shastri Nagar. I knowww, he just wanted to get to know me, but I cherish my peace and quiet on my morning commute. I think being in a moving vehicle can be a great opportunity for introspection, and if any of you know me, I hate to miss an opportunity to overanalyze things. A new book entitled “In Motion” was just released which explains that while in motion our mind actually accelerates which leads to a heightened state of consciousness, its 10th in queue on my kindle.
So because I don’t have a consistent driver I usually have to wait about 10 minutes before an auto-rickshaw finally stops to pick me up. I’m generally running a little late so this 10-minute period tends to be relatively stressful. Its funny how I don’t learn from my mistakes and never give myself enough time in the morning. I had one of the highest tardy records of my high-school class by my senior year, yes Mom I know, this is not something I should be proud of.
As soon as an auto-rickshaw stops my first frustration of the day generally begins, as I have to viciously haggle with the driver. By now I have developed a technique that involves proposing a reasonable price and as soon as it is countered by the driver with a 10 rupee increase I shake my head and walk away in a confident manner. Invariably the driver will call out for me to sit down as I’m walking away. Before I developed this technique I would banter and bargain for what seemed like forever and by the time I finally got into an auto-rickshaw I would be exhausted. If I can give one piece of advice to anyone coming to India is to perfect the walk-away during a negotiation, it has worked wonders for me.
My ride is about 30 minutes from C-Scheme to Shastri Nagar so I like to do something productive. I initially tried listening to my iPod or talking on the phone but the deafening noise coming out of the auto-rickshaw made that impossible. I finally settled on reading which in itself is barely possible. Many of the roads in Jaipur have not been paved in years and have speed bumps ever 15 feet – that coupled with the lack of shocks on most auto-rickshaws can make for a pretty bumpy ride (brain-rattling might actually be a better description). I have occasionally suffered some of the most damaging blows to the head I have ever experienced from my head hitting the metal rod on the top of the auto-rickshaw after my driver careened into a pothole or accelerated over a speed bump. My head hit the roof so hard that it rung my bell equivalent to some of the hardest shots I have ever received while training in boxing or kickboxing. If it wasn’t for my hair tied on the top of my head I’m sure it would have created a gap in my consciousness. I think reading makes it worse because I’m usually not paying attention when all of a sudden my head swings back and I go airborne (its always the ones that you don’t see coming that do the most damage). By now I am so used to it that I am able to immediately dive back into my book as soon as I come crashing down to my seat.
The first month I arrived to work everyday slightly disoriented. I’m sure this will help my martial arts training and my ability to focus while sustaining head trauma but I’m not so sure about its effect on my brain cells. I guess I have to just “go with the flow” like everyone else tells me. I hope to never hear that saying again after I return from India.