I have cribbed, time and again, about auto-drivers in Delhi, but finally, one of the tribe has redeemed the clan.
I was on my way to the Caferati read-meet, in Defence Colony, which is exactly five minutes from my new place. I hopped into an auto; the driver - for once, somebody who neither haggled nor leched nor insulted - asked me for directions, since he didn't know the way himself. I received directions over the phone and told the driver to look out for a petrol pump on his left.
It so happened that we never saw any petrol pump on the left. So the guy just kept going straight. We went ALL the way over two sets of flyovers, and I found myself in Lodi Road, which I only became conscious of when I saw the India International Centre building.
I let out a yell and scolded the driver, "Where the hell do you think you're going? This is Lodi Road!! Defence Colony was... was... well, way back... back there."
He turned around and very politely said, "But madam; we still haven't seen that petrol pump."
It was only now that I noticed him really - soft-spoken, an almost educated accent, a grey uniform and clouded dark eyes, gentle and downcast.
I cleared my throat and said, stiffly, "Well, you'll just have to turn back now." while trying very hard to not sound like I was completely lost.
The guy turned right back, brought us back to the point we'd started from, drew up near a matronly lady and suggested, "Maybe we should ask, madam?"
So, I stepped out and did ask. The driver listened quietly to the directions, followed them very precisely, managed to get me to Defence Colony, took the various twists and turns we had to take, because I had forgotten the house, yet again, stopping to ask for directions every hundred yards.
By this time, I was just grateul to have reached the place, and was willing to pay up any amount quoted; after all, the fault was mine.
And when I finally asked him how much I should pay him, the driver shrugged and said, "As much as you think fit."
I persisted, "But still.. I don't know how much to pay, since we weren't using the meter."
He shrugged again, "You decide."
So, I paid him double the sum we'd agreed on, and did so happily, without gruding him a single paisa, and to hell with the meter. Without argument, he accepted, and left.
I do have to rant against buses, though.
All morning, I've been cursing the bus conductor who did not return my change. I had handed him a hundred rupee note and he told me to wait for the change. I waited half an hour, but the change wasn't forthcoming. In the subsequent rush to get off the bus, I forgot to ask for it too. My fault, I suppose. But even so...
I am suspicious because this isn't the first time. Many a bus conductor in Delhi 'forgets' to return my change. Curiously, I've yet to meet a bus conductor who forgets to charge me. Or any other passenger. Their memories (to give the devils their due) are razor-sharp.
They remember precisely which passenger got a ticket made (that is the term - though I've never understood it... tickets are always 'made' or 'cut' in Delhi; though actually, they should be 'torn') for which destination - who gets on at what stop, and buys what ticket, and must get off where, and how much extra must be paid because you forgot to get off at your own stop - they remember EVERYTHING.
Except, how much they owe you. That, they often forget.