Travelling certainly has changed dramatically over the years. Walk into my home town and the first thing you see hogging the roads are the widely popular public transport. Actually it is more of a race between the dirt cheap blue devils called tempos and Vikrams against the madly driven Harry Potter kind of local buses; auto rickshaws come next in the hierarchy. Taxi cabs are a rarity but a firm favourite for going to the airport or travelling out of town.
The reason why I’m gabbing about it is because of my visit to the capital city where I was determined to indulge my touristy side.
The general advice was to use the well connected Metro trains-safe and cheap. I just had to factor in a million residents thinking the same, standing in the ticket queues and fighting for the seats (did a rush hour trip and was reminded of sardines packed in a tin). Then there was the blistering heat of June that I was pretty much ready to ignore except I had my Teen Princess with me who refused to do so.
The other options was the ‘Hop on and Hop off’ (HoHo) bus, tailor made for folks like me who were big on the whole heritage experience; seats booked online. Would have been interesting but her Royal Highness was in no mood to sacrifice the whole day hopping on and off a bus. Just when I was rolling up my sleeves for Debate Round Two, another welcome suggestion came forth.
“Download Ola app or even Uber, pickup from your doorstep and drop off at the entrance. Plus the cars have air conditioning and are pocket friendly. Convenient!”
Ok! That made sense and I was all for convenience and for a happy peaceful holiday. Uber was and still in news for all the wrong reasons, Ola was the winner. I was reassured to see a big red SOS button on the app, presumably for worry warts like me.
Welcome to the new age way of hassle free travel! Now distances didn’t matter, short or long, the cab was just two minutes away. No arguing or bargaining for the fare (automatically calculates depending on distance and peak hours) and no chit chat required except when you slide in the cab, you were respectfully asked, “madam the OTP number ?”
Thereafter the only sound one hears was the polished feminine voice of the GPS”…in 300 meters turn left to Baba XYZ Road.”
With the fastest route map laid out for the driver and a corresponding one on my phone, our cab joined the countless others on the thoroughfare. I gleefully peered out of the window and spied an ornate Mughal gate at a distance. Before I could ask what it was, Princess sitting by my side pulled the map tracking our cab on the phone; it was the Safdarjung Tomb complex.
As I said earlier, there was absolutely no need to ask for any thing.
Silence reigned again!
I suppose now it was impossible to get lost, except when you near your drop off point.
“Why isn’t Block B between A and C?”
That was probably the only time when the windows were rolled and human interaction took place. Trust the town planners to mess up as we went around in circles which now had a Block F and G in the fray.
“Hello! Which way is Block B or Vasundhara School opposite it?”
Aha ! How our sense of adventure has changed.
Reminded me of the good old days when maps came folded and the co passenger, that is yours truly, was the navigator. That’s when fork in the road was explored because the map mentioned Talacauvery, supposedly the source of Cauvery River. I’m really proud of that detour, that place was heavenly.
On the same trip I got to use my dumb charades skills, travelling through areas where both Hindi and English were alien languages. That was the day I learnt my first Malayalam word ‘kotta’ for what I insisted on calling St Angelo’s Fort, with a handy Historical reference(the Dutch / 1600s) helpfully thrown in,while seeking its directions. After much gesticulations and frustrating wrong turns, we reached the magnificent Fort hugging the coast. The feeling of accomplishment was incredible.
Ok! That was it! I’m breaking the ice. What’s the point of travelling if you don’t talk to the locals and here I was stuck with one. Despite the frosty looks by the Princess, I plunged right in and the chats were a revelation.
Many drivers were no more local than I was, hailing from far away states, making a living as a cabbie utterly dependent on the electronic voice map to lead the way . Yes ! That meant they didn’t know any different route or shortcuts. So welcome to getting stuck in traffic snarls.
Their shifts lasted till they earned the cutoff limit for the day and the most interesting nugget of information was that they doubled as both Ola and Uber drivers . Huh! In the end it didn’t matter what app I favoured to hail a ride, for I was getting the same guy. They carried two separate devices to attend calls from the two different services. Hmm… interesting indeed!
Once destination reached, amount paid, a feedback form on the driver came up on my screen. I glanced up to see his device, for it too appeared to have a feedback form.
Was that for the customer?
I saw him punching a five star just as I was ticking for him on my phone. I suppose a good talk is a magnet for good cheer.
Here’s to smooth travelling and apps the way to go!