To all of you who car-pool,bus, bike or walk to work here is an innovation that verily can claim "It happens only in India-ji".
I live on on popular road in Banjara hills. Although my office is walking distance the 25 mins it takes for me to get there is an uphill climb and arriving with grime on my face is not how I usually like to present myself. There were two alternative - walk 250m down the road to catch a bus or take an auto. Cautiously, I took an auto the first few days. Each trip is a negotiation nightmare and one evening, I decided to forgo the usual haggling and, started to walk homewards when an auto crept up beside me. The auto driver, a young looking hero-wannabe, complete with a red scarf around his neck, motioned his head to indicate I should jump in. I turned around to find two other women in the back seat. The driver thought I appeared a bit clueless and mumbled "mumble mumble office" which made no sense to me. I then asked if he was going on Road no 12 and he nodded, once again furiously indicating with his head that I should jump in. I did. We then stopped several times along the way and each time the driver would crane his head and mumble something about an office. I found it utterly enchanting. Two more men soon got into the auto and you must wonder, where did they fit? With the driver of course; one on either side, sharing the driver's seat. This journey lasted about 5 minutes and I was promptly dropped off after a meagre Rs 5 payout.
In the last week I have been able to figure out the system. There are autos which just travel Road no 12 and model themselves as Share autos. They pack about 5 (excluding the driver) and more, if there are kids. They simply travel up and down the road from the "Pension office" to the "Check post" and back again. So when I have to travel up the road I catch an auto driver who keeps chanting the words "Post" till his auto is filled. Then we climb up the hill, sometimes getting off when the poor engine is unable to navigate steep sections with all of us piled in.
I find the system brilliant. For 10 bucks I have a service that is anytime, provides seating and drops me home. For other points along road no 12 also I can use this service; the charges vary. What is rather neat is how the sexes neatly segregate themselves, so in an auto with men and women, the girls get the cushy back seat while the men sit in front. Also, the system is egalitarian. I have shared the auto with software chicks and day laborers. We are one big happy family traveling up or down the road.
After living for so many years in a society where random body contact between strangers is eschewed (to the extent that in a theatre people leave a seat between two parties) its warm and reassuring to use a system that relies on the ability of people to pack together in order to save money and time. I have missed this type of daily contact. Welcome home, I suppose?
The standard autoPicture downloaded from: http://photos.igougo.com/images/p242056-Indore_India-Auto_rickshaw_in_Indore.jpg