Monday, July 27, 2020

*Meter Cost Only*

The old man stopped a passing auto rickshaw. The auto rickshaw came to a halt ten paces in front of him and vroomed. He walked towards it. The auto driver looked at him expressionless.

“Bunny Colony,” he said.
“Get in!” said the auto rickshaw man, and turned away from the old man.
“Put on the meter, please!” said the old man, determined to pay only what was worth the ride.

The auto rickshaw driver stared at the old man as if he had just said something which was forbidden to say, vroomed his vehicle, and took off. The old man looked at the speeding auto rickshaw skeptically, and started walking again. He stopped another speeding auto rickshaw. This one stopped twenty paces before him. The old man walked up to the vehicle, again.

“Bunny Colony,” the old man said.

The auto rickshaw man signalled the old man to get inside, and looked away.

“Put on the meter, please!” said the old man, glancing at the auto rickshaw man hopefully.

This auto rickshaw driver looked at him as if he must be crazy to make such a statement, snickered, and zoomed off. The old man looked at his watch. He still had lots of time. So, he walked on. Another speeding auto rickshaw stopped on its own. 

“Where to?” called the auto rickshaw driver.
“Bunny Colony,” said the old man.
“Get in!” said the driver.
“Put on the meter, please!” said the old man, with the same polite tone he had used with the other two men.
“Meter? What did you say, sir? Meter!” laughed the driver. “No meter, sir. Two fifty rupees…”
“Two fifty? No…” said the old man. “Put the meter on, or go off!”

The auto rickshaw man stared at the old man for sometime, and then gestured to the old man to get in again.

“Okay, okay. Give me two hundred…” said the driver, making an expression signifying great sacrifice.
“No, no, no… I am not giving you anything but the cost on the meter,” said the old man simply. Now, he turned away as if uninterested. He started walking again.

The auto vroomed from it’s place for sometime, expecting the old man to give up and turn back to it, but when it seemed like that wasn't going to happen, it sped away.

The old man turned the street corner after stopping a moment to wipe the pearls of sweat off his forehead. He crossed the street to reach the main road where many auto rickshaws stopped by. None of them would agree for the meter cost. Finally, an auto stopped again.

“Yes, sir?” asked the driver.
“Bunny Colony,” the old man said, for the umpteenth time, very patiently.

This auto rickshaw man, just like all the rest, signalled the old man to get in.

“Put on the meter, please!” said the old man, still polite.

The man turned on the meter promptly, and then said, “Give me thirty rupees on top of the meter charges!”

“Sorry, only meter charges. Nothing more…” said the old man.
“Get in sir! Paying an extra twenty rupees is better than getting a heat stroke!” said the man, sarcastically.
“Thank you. I will take care,” said the old man, plainly, and turned away.

The bus stop was there. He could go there. So, the old man went there, and waited for a bus to turn up.

And, then again, an auto rickshaw stopped by.

“Bunny Colony,” said the old man.

“Get in!” said the auto rickshaw man, and turned away from the old man.

“Put on the meter, please!” said the old man. And the auto zoomed off. Another auto stopped by. He tried ignoring the auto rickshaw. He didn’t want to ask them anymore. He was pretty tired.

“Where to, sir?” asked a young driver.
“Will you put on the meter?” asked the old man, directly.

The boy pointed proudly at the “METER COST ONLY” sticker which was pasted in front of the auto rickshaw. The old man looked at it, and allowed himself a smile.

“Bunny Colony,” said the old man.

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