Recently I had to visit Bangalore, and had to catch a flight from Pune airport.
Being new to pune, a day before I visited the auto stand near my place and found a single auto waiting there. Two gentleman were seated inside engrossed in a discussion. Out of the two, I could make out
that one was the driver, but the other gentleman was in a safari and had his reading glasses on. He was the father of the autodriver.
I enquired with them about the charges for going towards the airport, he answered "250". Trying to bargain, as is the habit, I mumbled that the charge is a bit high. The elderly man said that it is infact a very reasonable fare and that the drive was about 30 minute one depending upon the traffic. Now a 30 min drive in pune basically means a 1.5 hour drive in mumbai, and I am located in a area where there is no public transport system or its scarce. He asked me not to worry and that they wouldnt fleece me and to trust them.
So I agreed and asked him to drop in at my place in the morning, next day. I was excited, as I would be flying Kingfisher airlines for the first time and looked forward to interacting with Dr.Vijay Mallya’s beautiful air-hostesses.
The auto drive was enlightening to say the least. During the course of casual conversation, he explained that about 2-3 years back he was planning to revamp his house by plastering etc., but could not arrange funds and was saving on the same. Now due to inflation, the cost of repairing today, could have bought him another house 2-3 years back. I am a witness to this mad scramble in Pune for real estate.
The booming of the IT Parks has also seen a heavy increase in the traffic, especially of Indica cars that belong to the vendors of the companies and the call centers. The drivers of this on the route, to pick up staff, also pick up customers from bus stops, auto stands for a mere 10 Rs./15 Rs, thus effectively eating into the business of the auto drivers and also the PCMC bus. Even the private bus drivers of this IT companies, pick up customers and fill the buses to the brim.
The Auto driver showed me this instances while on the way. He explained to me that the vegetables and food grain markets are also very high, making it difficult for people at the lower end of the spectrum to make ends meet. He took me through lanes, where the stark difference between the high rises and the slums was immediately visible.
Due to the sudden booming of the SEZ parks, and increase in traffic, the roads are in a pathetic condition, full of potholes. This increases the wear and tear of all vehicles, not to mention also the auto of the poor auto driver, meaning more expense for him.
But what impressed me the most was the auto-driver’s humble tone, his ingenuity of acquiring a mobile and networking with people and marketing his services. He asked me to give him a call when I return and that he would be present at the airport to receive him and would charge me only one-way. I promised I would.
I entered the small airport, suddenly feeling the burden of the flight charge of 8000+, though it was paid by the company. I entered the flight, which was a very smooth one, but my conscience was split in two, arguing the highs and lows of unbridled development and opened my laptop and started to make notes.
I was just left with a question – "Can’t rural india be included in this so called globalization / development and isn’t it India too.? Is this what drives the farmers to suicides as reported by the media everyday?"
Anyway, for educating me and bringing me down from my illusory pedestal, I tipped him extra 50 and took the flight. Mr.Kamble the auto driver is a regular now with me.