Conversations with the auto driver and the irreversible nature of migration- July 5, 2012

I had an interesting auto ride today. Walked a bit in the heat and didn’t find an auto, so when one stopped by with the driver apologetically inquiring if I minded him stopping by to fill gas, I hopped in. The driver was polite, reassuring me that the wait at the CNG station would take 5-7 minutes and generally seemed like a nice bloke.

And so, we had a full fledged conversation. Netrapal Singh, from Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh. He was happy to meet someone who had lived in UP. He had lived in Delhi for some 20 years, 16 of which had been spent driving an auto riksha. We spoke about Akhilesh Yadav, the wonderful politeness of UP dialects and about how one-way the phenomenon of migration is (though his retirement dream consists of chilling in the village someday!). His kids went to school and he, matter of factly, commented on them being ill at ease when they visited the village house and eager to return to the city. He was also understandably proud of being able to educate them and even more so of being able to build his own home in an urban village in Badarpur, which is on the border of Delhi and Haryana at Faridabad. He is now saving to add a second floor to his home. He earns about Rs, 25,000. I also learned that he can fill 4l of CNG in his auto and each litre gives him an average run of 25 kilometres. So he can run 100 km in one refill. Fascinating! I was happy to know I could strike up mundane conversation with my auto driver. He was happy to have a chatty ride.

He reminded me of another Netrapal. Also from UP, he used the be the office boy in CCPS, where I worked about a decade ago out of a poky office in Nehru Place. Now this chap was our man Friday. Once when I had asked him to get me a grilled veggie sandwich from round the corner for lunch, he looked very very concerned. He wanted to know why I wanted to pay an obscene sum of Rs 100 for shredded cabbage stuffed between two pieces of sort of stale bread! He expressed this in very colloquial Hindi, and it was hilarious! I’ve never been able to have a veggie grilled sandwhich since! Netrapal was one of those rare people who actually did go back to his place of origin, Bulandshahar or thereabouts if I remember right. That happened because he managed to wangle a government job back there. Now that’s one thing that can reverse rural to urban migration!


About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on July 5, 2012, in Urban Planning & Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. During my days in Maharani Bagh Hostel in SPA, I would strike up a conversation with all Cycle-Rickshaw pullers. The common thread in their conversations was the same: all of them pine for their village but realize they can’t live that life any more. The neglect of the villages and our skewed development (more mobile phones that water-taps) model doesn’t help either.

  2. Bharat Singh

    On the topic of rural economies and the desire to stall/reverse rural migration, it will have to take some very serious policy changes in land ownership to do so. Most eastern UP/Bihar villages have so much land fragmentation due to the limit of 20 acres(+/- a few acres) ownership per person and the desire to hold on to roots is really cramping any economy of scale to build up in distant rural communities.

    Funny thing is that even my Dad has the same dream of going back to the village. I must say that I too harbor some of that as well.

  3. rahulpradhan9

    Even we also belong to the same migratory flock . Although our purpose for leaving was to explore the vast possibilities offered by the Big City. But somehow I feel that we all have adjusted in our new surrounding and no longer yearn to go back. One always feel good to be back and re live the memories tied to our home town. But at the end of day we have all moved on and now this is our new home town.

  4. Manoj Kumar Srivastava

    Very touching one….bahut achcha laga padh kar….

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