When Sholay was released, mothers used to threaten their children saying, “Beta, so ja varna Gabbar Singh aa jayega.” (Go to sleep dear, otherwise Gabbar, the dreaded villain might come.) But, these threats underwent a major change over the years. After Dhoom 3 released, this threat was completely transformed. “Are uth ja, varna auto vala bohot bhagayega”. (Get up now, otherwise the auto driver will drive rashly). If you din’t already get the metaphor, let me spell it out for you. Auto valas have successfully become the new age dreaded Gabbars! And yes, this is sugarcoating it.
From speeding, to rash driving, left hand overtakes to signal jumping, there is nothing these daredevils are afraid of! Speed breakers and ditches might scare you, you mere mortal, not the valiant auto driver! The auto vala will fearlessly speed up when they see a bump and take off into the air, only to make a mighty landing 17 feet ahead! A few horns, some angry words, a few thousand deathly stares don’t deter the will of the auto driver. He takes them all like a man and marches straight ahead, not caring if there are a dozen cars in front of him waiting for the signal to turn green. Brakes, rear view mirrors, indicators are for the weak hearted. Auto guys do not require these unnecessary accessories! As long as they have a non functional meter, a wooden board, and two posters of Sonakshi Sinha on either side of the seat, they are good to go!
At least Gabbar had the good sense to ride his horse in the correct lane with a safe distance from the other horses on the dirt road, but these (bad) asses change lanes as if they were TV channels at prime time. Gabbar’s grass fed horse only caused pollution in the form of his dung, but the autos with their kerosene and diesel and what not, cause air, sound, brain and mouth pollution all at the same time. Gabbar while riding his horse only shot people with his rifle, that’s only two tasks at once, but the auto valas can simultaneously talk on the phone, talk to the guy sitting in the auto, chew pan, spit on the road, give directions to random strangers, honk their “bhopus” at every car on the road and drive. All this, whilst sitting tilted in their seat, which gives rise to another glaring question! Why do auto valas sit crooked in their seats? Why can’t they sit straight with their butt aligned to their seats? Is this some kind of auto driver code? Does this position add to their power? Or is it just pure science? Sitting crooked gives them more weight on one side which makes the moment of inertia of the auto just correct enough to defy all gravity and enables them to squeeze their auto in the thinnest of lanes and alleys and in between the most fatal of traffic jams. The angle of their posture successfully enhances their road sense such that they can dodge scooters, trucks and the police in the last second without hitting the first and getting caught by the latter. Anyway, this is all guess work because the real secret shall never be revealed to us lesser evolved road users.
If they weren’t creating enough ruckus, there is a new hybrid species out in town. The six seater autos. The tuk tuks or chhakdas or shared autos or whatever you call them, which are wreaking havoc in cities. Their motto is “Jo darr gaya, samjho marr gaya! Muwahahahahahahaha”. Unlike Gabbar they will never ask “Kitne Aadmi the?” because for them, the more the merrier! 6 people can comfortably sit inside a tuk tuk. 8 people can be somehow squeezed inside. 10 people might fit if 2 adjust in the front seat with the driver. However, numbers and logic are casually brushed off by this kind of auto valas. They do not flinch before stuffing 19 people in their auto after which they will still be standing at any junction and shouting “Metro Metro Metrooooo, Metro Metro MMMetroooooo.”
You guys must be thinking why am I comparing rickshaw valas to the viscous Gabbar Singh? I mean, aren’t they just doing their job and helping us? In fact, public transport is the need of the hour! Well, they are not all bad! When your cars break down, it’s the auto valas who charge you 500 Rs to go to your office. In India, the thrill of getting your face squished by a fat aunty’s underarms is unmatched. And who gives you this joy? Local buses, trains, sarkari daftars, and now the shared autos! The mango people in India who cannot afford to go to expensive amusement parks, dangle themselves from a shared auto and enjoy free roller coasters! Not just kids, now even adults play road rash, and that too live! Non religious people get the fear of God when they sit in Delhi autos! The catchy one liners and various creative abuses written on the back of an auto is a source of daily entertainment for us!
So, Gabbar, you are officially a thing of the past. We now have new super villains. And, as much as we curse them, in all honesty, we need them, ’cause if they were not there, then imagine, “Hamara kya hota, Kaaliya?”