Taking an auto-rickshaw in India is often an adventure in and of itself. I also knew that people share autos all the time, simply to make the ride cheaper for everyone. But I had never had people jump into an auto while I was riding in it.
So, here am I, watching the busy street scene in Varanasi from the inside of my naturally ventilated auto, sipping water from my bottle because it’s so hot, when suddenly, even as the auto is moving, two policemen jump in, one on each side of the driver, and sit there as if it’s the most natural thing to do. And I guess it is, because when my friend asked the auto driver why he let them do that, he just shrugged, and said something like : “what can I possibly do ?”
Now, my friend, who is not the type to sit quietly while people abuse a situation (as we say in French, she does not have her tongue in her pocket) is asking them – in Hindi, of course – what they’re doing here, and could they not ask for permission to use our rickshaw, when a policewoman jumps in at the back, half her body bent so she can fit in the low space. This time, my friend argues vehemently, and refuses to move to allow this lady to squeeze in and sit with us. In the end, she jumped out again, saying that my friend was making her life too difficult.
The two policemen got off at a crossing, maybe five minutes later, without even a thank you. Then again, maybe they didn’t feel welcome.