Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuk-Tuk and the Flavor of Air



India was a feeding frenzy for my obsession with traffic and public transportation. When I moved to the U.S. I couldn't drive yet and so if I wanted to get to Salt Lake to spend time with my brothers, the pinnacle of pure adolescent independence involved staring at the stale linoleum floor of the Utah Transit Authority buses that whisked one from Ogden, Utah to Salt Lake City, magically transforming a 35 minute trip into three hours. Although the route map resembled a tetherball pole with two ropes slightly moving in different directions, I still felt that the bus made the tiny stretch of I-15 my oyster. I should add that routes have significantly improved since then, and at the time, I didn't really care about the time, my time was filled with people watching, a bright yellow Sony Walkman (waterproof edition) with some butt rock mix tape and the sun blasting the Wasatch front from my westward facing window vantage point. I was leaving the small town and going to stay in what I thought was the "big" city.

In Delhi, I was in the "big" city and from the balcony of my hotel in Pahar Ganj I could taste that similar elixir of freedom as I watched Tuk-Tuks (Auto Rickshaws) battle for position on the tight street from above. Looking like angry little beetles they were narrowly dodging one another while churning forward in the same direction. The small tan hands of passengers, gripping the bars and exposed to the street, they clung while their faces and identities remained behind an angled shadow.

I primarily took Tuk-Tuks while in Delhi, some locals taught me to freak out at the fare (that you set before hand *travelers tip) no matter what it was. They taught me to say, "What!? Are you taking me to Pakistan?!!" Also, from the many rides, I pieced together an extensive course in Hindu Dieties and Saints from always asking who the tattered sticker was that partially blocked the drivers already small view of the road.

When you think of Manhattan you see yellow cabs sprinkled about inside the traffic, I will think of Tuk-Tuks; little green and yellow balls that cough, sputter and honk about town, pushing every flavor of Indian air and wind into your face as the commotion of Delhi smears by.