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!