18 June, 2011

I got that Three-Wheelin' Feelin'

We’re a bit behind, so here is a slight progression toward the present:

On Wednesday evening we went to visit some friends of a cousin in the outskirts of Bangalore. This story, experiencially speaking, is anecdotal and of little more than the journey itself (though I did google in at least two instances).

We saw pigs roaming the streets, owned by a local mobster. If you want to kill one, you can do so only with his permission. But beware: they feed on garbage and so the meat is of less than good quality. According to advice we received, if you want good pork you should go to the slaughterhouse. The streets are small, filled with mostly pedestrian traffic, and bumpy, and we were driving through in a Tata Nano. Many of the cars in India are small, but also modern. Miniature hatchbacks are very common, much like in Europe.

Also extremely common are Lovson or Bajaj autorickshaws, or tuk-tuks (as I was apparently geographically incorrectly introduced to them), or autos as they are most commonly called. These are three-wheeled doorless taxis, and they are probably one of the worst sources of smog in Bangalore (apparently they churn out about 4500 ppm of hydrocarbons). They run on four-stroke engines, so they make lots of noise and often spew black or white smoke out of their tiny tailpipes. In one area of town there is a conglomeration of auto repair shops, where many are parked along the streetside, several of which can be seen with engines completely dismantled and greased up mechanics laying down looking up confidently with wrenches in hands.

That said, the first half of this particular journey consisted of my first experience riding in one of these little beasts. After days of being chauffeured around in air-conditioned fuel efficiency, looking down at the stinky, smoky tailpipes of hard-earned subsistence, i was riding on its back. The fare was cheaper than any non-free transportation I’ve ever experienced. Based on the per kilometer fee of about 7 rupees (soon to be 9), some estimates of fuel efficiency (just googled it, about 22km/L), and the current gas price which is definitely more expensive that the US at around 70 rupees/L, they make about 4 rupees profit per km minus vehicle upkeep and precious, precious time. That’s about 10 cents.

The catch is, their meters stop when they stop, so time spent in traffic for the drivers is time when they earn absolutely nothing. Traffic in Bangalore sucks most of the time. And autorickshaws are a little unsteady and a tad unsafe so their business is primarily during the day when traffic is most common (during night passenger car taxis are preferred). Additionally, they operate mainly inside the city which has a radius of about 12km, so the most a driver can hope to make on a fare traveling clear across the city is less than a dollar. And it takes about an hour.

The fare for our journey came to about 50 rupees. I know Pras’ anna (cuz) gave the driver a tip, I’m just not sure how much (as a side note, tipping here is generally minimal, often amounting to whatever round number is next up from the total on the order thereof). Almost forgot to mention: at one point we went over a big hump (speed bump) at an angle, in our three-wheeled autorickshaw. When the rear wheels came up and then down in alternation, the car definitely rocked. I’m pretty sure it’s not rare for these things to tip over, but I’m also pretty sure the four of us could have righted it no sweat. Well, maybe a little on the brow.

ps - please excuse or enjoy the train-of-thoughtness of the above, it’s 6am and I’m about to sleep.

1 comment:

  1. I went to school for a number of years in an auto, with 12 more kids and the driver all in the same auto. Plus we had our 5 kg bags hanging out from the meter. Extremely un-enjoyable, but accepted as safe by parents and society.

    PS: It just takes 1 small girl to topple an auto, and two to push it back upright. True story.