I don’t really know how else to say it, and I think you’ve probably begun to guess this already. Auto rickshaws rock my world. If I had another life, I would want to be a rickshaw driver. It’s Mario Kart (definitely N64 edition) in real life and then some. It’s like right after the lightning bolt strikes, and the auto drivers are all the little guys speeding around, taking reckless turns and jumps, just to try to catch up. You don’t drop bananas behind you, but you tie baby shoes on the back of your bumper and spit red tobacco juice out the side of the car.
And these characters can talk. They don’t just shout, “Oh, no!” or growl or laugh in a slightly creepy way, though, certainly, they do all of those things. Rickshaw drivers make people cry. I swear, trash talk was invented on the streets of Kolkata. I don’t understand everything, but what I do follow always makes me smile and wish I had someone to whisper, “Oh, no he didn’t” to. They taunt one another as they steal passengers and cut each other off and shred other drivers for simple driving mistakes, which, to be honest, can barely be noticed here.
My general understanding of the break up of an auto rickshaw driver’s world is like this (simplistic sketch):
Friends: The other rickshaw drivers that are part of your route and union. (there are a few rogue drivers that aren’t so popular)
Enemies: Bus and truck drivers.
Innocent by-standers: The passengers.
Means of engagement: Cut off drivers and do what you can to completely frustrate their every effort to get ahead of you.
If a bus or truck driver makes a mistake, the chastisements are all in the non-verbals. I mean, what can a little rickshaw driver say to a bus driver that they’ll even be able to hear in all the noise? But that’s the beauty, there’s no need for words. The other night a bus driver held up traffic by trying to do a u-turn and stalling or something like that, and my driver pulled up diagonally to the front of the bus, stopped, and stared at the bus driver for a full 30 seconds with complete and unabashed disdain. His face said, “If I could do anything in my life, it would be to go back to the day your parents met and prevent them from ever giving birth to an incompetent fool like you, and if I didn’t succeed, I would cut off your legs so you could never drive and commit such an unforgivable transgression.” Sweet vengeance. That’s the life.