Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Auto Rickshaw Differentiation

One  advantage of staying at a 4 star hotel in Bangalore that caters to business travelers, is that when you hire a car there to drive you to work each day, the driver is personable, highly trained (he drives safely), experienced, and has good English speaking ability.  The drivers politely ask the usual questions during the 1 kilometer, 10 minute ride: 
- Did you have breakfast sir?
- First time in Bangalore sir?
- Have any plans for this weekend sir?
- What do you like most about Bangalore sir?
- Where is your home sir?
- What time do you need to be picked up this evening sir?

I politely reply, using no contractions and simple sentence structure (noun, verb, direct object) with clean and clear annunciation so they can hear over the din of other vehicles' horns and engines.  Then I ask them questions to learn more about life in India.
- How long have you driven for Taj?
- How many years did you drive before Taj hired you?
- Is Mr Sultan (the head of the Travel Desk) a good man to work for?
- Do you enjoy driving for the Taj?
- How many times each week do you make the Airport Pick-up route? (an hour and a 1/2 drive through massive construction traffic and bumpy bumpy roads).
Then on Wednesday, on my last trip to the office, we witnessed an auto accident.  Right beside us, a brand new Chevy (a tiny car that resembles a Smart Car) SLAMMED on it's breaks, coming to an abrupt halt, and the small Toyota behind it didn't react fast enough and rear ended the Chevy, at the entrance to the technology park in which the Taj Vivanta is located.  Tires screeched,  contact, impact, plastic was shattered and metal to metal contact was made.  The entire world STOPPED, for about 5 seconds.  Every pedestrian, motorcyclist, driver, and security guard, paused to see if the drivers were all right, and if the cause of the accident were two cars of approx equal size and value (they were, so no mob action was needed, link here).  We were RIGHT NEXT TO the accident, and though I was a witness, the Taj driver drove forward as soon as the cacophony of horns began to honk, everyone realizing it was property damage only and not bodily damage.

I mentioned to the driver that this was the 2nd accident I saw this visit.  The previous one, was the prior Saturday when we were stuck in traffic, and a Auto Rickshaw edging forward, bumped a pedestrian who was crossing the street in front of the green tricycle.  The pedestrian GRABBED the Auto Rickshaw driver's arm and handle bar, and shook it, a verbal argument ensued, the surrounding mob (our car adjacent, included) observed the confrontation.  A few seconds later, the scene de-escalated, and the pedestrian unhurt, except for his pride, walked off, and the cacophony resume, traffic inching forward.

To my surprise, the Taj driver asked me "What color was the Rickshaw sir?" 
"Green" I replied.
"Those are 4 cycle engines sir. The black ones are 2 cycle engines" the driver replied. 
THAT made sense.  The black ones were generally more beat up, older looking, belching more black smoke, and slower, powered by a 10 or 15 Hp lawnmower engine.  The green rickshaws looked (generally) newer, usually belching less black smoke, able to do 30 or 40 mph, as compared to the two cycle approx 25 mph strained max. 

I learn something new everyday.  =)

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