A day in the life of a Bangalore autowallah. Well, sort of.

Hat tip to Michael Thompson on directing me to the video.

From Xaver Xylophon, a graphic designer/animator from Europe, a very cute video of an auto rickshaw driver’s day in Bangalore, where I now reside.

Fun to watch and it offers lots of interesting tidbits on this facet of the transport system in major India cities (and elsewhere in the world, from Kenya to Thailand).

The artist certainly goes beyond the one-off Mario Kart-esque caricature of the rickshaw. He includes a dispute over a meter-fare, a break-down fixed by jugaad, a nap, the menagerie of passengers and even some downtime.

Still, a few things are missing from the video that are part of the routine for many an autowallah. I’m not trying to be hypercritical, but it’s important to recognize reality, particularly as these three-wheelers play a large role in keeping urban transport from completely collapsing.

To start, the road traffic itself seems almost pleasant. I’m sure the artist knows how choked Bangalore roads are and I imagine the true picture would be difficult to animate. In reality, autos are becoming increasingly less visible amid the crush of cars that is overtaking most Indian cities.

We could have easily seen more of the exploitative, entitled passenger. A fare dispute is rarely resolved without some yelling. Of course, the reverse also often happens; in what is often an almost adversarial system here in Bangalore (and elsewhere), autowallahs do sometimes try to take passengers for as much as they can; many rarely go by meter so easily.

Other supporting characters deserve screen time: The police officer expecting a bribe; the upper-class, elitist bada sahib honking and shouting incessantly from behind the wheel; the chowkidar of the new building/complex scaring off the driver; the other autowallahs who are sometimes hostile to strangers who venture too far from their usual territory; even the firang cyclist (me) adding to the confusion of the rode.

Above all, we are missing the owner of the auto exacting a pound of flesh (exorbitant rent, inflated repair charges, etc.) from the driver. Though it’s true that some rickshaws are owner-operated (this varies by city) and some drivers are unionized or otherwise protected, in many instances, the vehicle is owned by an investor whose profit comes from exploiting the labor class.

Again, the video is really quite wonderful, but ultimately the daily path of the autowallah involves dodging (or coping) with plenty of class conflict and exploitation, in addition to potholes, streetdogs and breakdowns.

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‘No charge for pagri’

I became a public spectacle

The Golden Temple is Sikhism’s most holy place. All those entering the temple must out of respect and acknowledgement for tradition cover their heads.

This has given rise to a whole industry of people selling scarves, kerchiefs and other headgear in the bylanes leading to the Golden Temple complex. The temple itself also offers free head coverings in the form of simple scarves.

Since I often wear a long stole with my kurta-pyjama, I have learned to tie myself a makeshift turban, or pagri, on festive or religious occasions. That had been my intention again, when I visited the temple complex on holiday in March.

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Sabji walle!

Dharamshala vegetable sellers

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Chai, chai, garam chai, chai garam, garam chai…

Amritsari masala tea is dang fine

A charismatic chaiwallah whips up a batch with pomp and circumstance. Spicy with plenty of kali mirch and elaichi. Accha hei.

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Kebab week, Vol. 7

Some like it hot

In honor and memory of the Khan Market Aap ki Khatir branch, this week I devote the blog to a series of kebab-wallah photos from a trip with friends to the Nizamuddin location.

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Kebab week, Vol. 6

Roti

In honor and memory of the Khan Market Aap ki Khatir branch, this week I devote the blog to a series of kebab-wallah photos from a trip with friends to the Nizamuddin location.

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Kebab week, vol. 5

Pyaaz

Every good kebab needs onions. Lots and lots of onions.

In honor and memory of the Khan Market Aap ki Khatir branch, this week I devote the blog to a series of kebab-wallah photos from a trip with friends to the Nizamuddin location.

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Kebab week, Vol. 4

Roll up a fat Tikka

In honor and memory of the Khan Market Aap ki Khatir branch, this week I devote the blog to a series of kebab-wallah photos from a trip with friends to the Nizamuddin location.

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Kebab week, Vol. 3

Chicken tikka

In honor and memory of the Khan Market Aap ki Khatir branch, this week I devote the blog to a series of kebab-wallah photos from a trip with friends to the Nizamuddin location.

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Kebab week, Vol. 2

Chick haunch

In honor and memory of the Khan Market Aap ki Khatir branch, this week I devote the blog to a series of kebab-wallah photos from a trip with friends to the Nizamuddin location.

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