Wednesday, October 18, 2006

tuk tuk ho to aisa














autorickshaws are omnipresent and ubiquitious in india.whether it is a big metropolis like mumbai or a small shanty town in far-off uttaranchal,an 'auto' as it is referred to is both a boon and a bane.in the absence of a good public transportation system like buses,trams and trains,'auto' is the next best economical mode of travel.and it also provides reasonable comfort and convenience. on these counts, it scores high marks. but when it comes to its proliferation as has happened,life can become very difficult.one of the main culprits for traffic congestion and accidents in big cities are the autos.and they also cause pollution.though technology of the engines has improved and you get less polluting engines these days,there are still a large number out on the roads adding to the depletion of the ozone layer.conversion to lpg from diesel is now taking place and hopefully that would reduce its negative impact on the environment.

given this background,i was quite suprised when i read some time back that our own 'autos' have become a craze in the uk. a young srilankan-indian origin entrepreneur called ponniah has started a "tuk tuk" auto service at brighton.the demand for these autos was so much initially that he had to increase his orders on the indian company to meet the surging requirements.the travellers found them neat,comfortable,eco-friendly and a quick way of reaching their destinations at minimum cost.said an excited brighton resident,"i plan to do it again and again". so far so good.his autos run on cng and are fitted with blankets and hot water bottles. but then i also read a week back that there has been a drop in the usage due to lack of punctuality.the timings are not being maintained and there is some disillusionment with the service provider.that was disappointing and disheartening.there is going to be an official quasi-legal inquiry into its alleged inability to stick to its timetable.ponniah thinks that tuktuks have fallen prey to a dirty tricks campaign by the city's taxi drivers' union.i only hope dominic ponniah puts his house in order soon and that with its success many more brightons get replicated all over uk.

'autos' have recently hit the headlines in pune,india for one more reason.the cause is 'brangelina'.hollywood's hottest star couple, bradd pitt and angelina jolie have been shooting for a movie 'a mighty heart'at pune for almost a fortnight now. it is based on the life of slain american journalist daniel pearl.accompanied by their three children and body guards they flew to mumbai in a private jet and to pune in a non-chartered bombardier aircraft.a mercedes,a qualis and a lancer drove on the tarmac right to the aircraft and frisked them away to the 'le meridien' hotel. they have booked 6 suites at the 'le meridien' and the papparazi are having a vexing time. both the local and foreign photographers.all the tricks in the trade are being played by the bodyguards of these hollywood superstars and their three adopted children to keep them away from the prying papparazi.the local pune papers are full of stories about the goings on.how a photographer was manhandled,how the auto in which they were travelling met with an accident and how their autorick driver "hit and ran".he was perhaps an exception.

there are honest and sincere autodrivers too.arif mohammed hussain bohri is one. a lucky man.he took the hollywood alpha couple for a spin and had a battery of shutterbugs and fans chasing him.brad pitt patted him on the back and said " very nice man,nice driver".i am reminded of the old cine-hit of actor rajnikant titled "badshah" and the the song "autokaaran,autokaaran,nalavanga routekaaran".arif was just like rajnikanth in the movie who takes his passengers by the right route and never for a ride. and the reward arif got from the hotel was rs 500! and the press interviewed him wanting to know what the golden couple spoke when they were in the auto. etc etc.

surprisingly,and i still cannot understand why,brad and jolie have decided to do most of their travelling in pune in an 'auto'.while they can be comfortably ensconsed in a mercedes or bmw.maybe they want to get a first hand impression of an indian city. to touch and feel.i wonder whether they are also having vadapav and thalipeeth. that carries with it a lot of risks for sanitised hollywoodians.they better beware.

yesterday when i was in bangalore i saw a very humorous cartoon displayed by 'amul' the butter and cheese brand.it is titled "brad butter ?" with the couple in an auto. brad having a "jolie" good snack.sadly the ad missed out the three kids!