There I am. Second day in Delhi, rushing to work in an auto-rickshaw (they refer to them as 'three-wheeler' here) all the way from Vasant Kunj to Connought Place, when bang in the middle of a busy road, the rickshaw driver stops.
I poke my head out of the auto and ask 'kya hua bhaisaab'?
He very calmly tells me that there's a red-light ahead and he needs to stretch. So I twiddle my thumbs and softly curse as he stretches, takes a short walk (he's left the engine running, incidentally) relieves himself, whips off his belt and undoes a few buttons, as he returns to the driver's seat. "I've just had breakfast. Plenty of gas," he offers, by way of explanation.
A few kilometres down, he stops again. This time there's no red light. I wonder whether the auto engine needs repairing. To my astonishment, the rickshaw-driver saunters across the road (having left the engine running, again), and he vaults over a fence onto a strip of grass adjacent to the pavement. There, a young boy is painting a fence a dark shade of green.
Our man coolly picks up the bucket of paint and a brush, walks back to the auto and starts painting. "This gaadi needs painting," he says. "It got scratched a few days ago."
The young painter is here now, hot in the pursuit of his paint bucket and brush. They argue in muted tones while the driver continues his paint job. In-between, he keeps up his attempts at conversation.
"Madam, this paint matches my rickshaw colour (in delhi, CNG autos are green and yellow). I might as well do it now... hey, you boy! Shall I cart off this paint-bucket? You can always get some more."
The boy obviously did not agree.
I fretted, fumed and pointed out that people like me take autos only when they are in a hurry to get some place; else, I might as well have taken a bus. Our man grinned again and kept applying the finishing touches. I gave up.
And oh, he did charge me twice as much as I owed him....
[That's the first in the Delhi auto series.]