Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Unwritten Pact of Discipline

Over the years, Rickshaw-wallas have earned a bad reputation for themselves, especially at the Delhi University Metro Station. We are seen as a nuisance and unfortunately, they can’t be out-rightly rejected for thinking so.

Call it the charm of Delhi University or the popularity of Metro among the students, the number of the rickshaw-wallas at the Metro station far exceed the number of passengers coming out of it at any given time (except the morning hour 8:30-9:30). Therefore one has to either actively 'hunt' for a sawari or sit idle on his rickshaw. You can see how rules of Economics (Demand & Supply) and Evolution (survival of the fittest) work in tandem here.

To stay ahead of the competition they have a motto - Catch them 'young'! A person, especially a good-looking girl, may find herself flooded with 'offers' from more than a dozen 'suitors' even before she has crossed the automated exit-gates; each going out of his way (and blocking her way in the process) to ‘woo’ her attention and take her to his ‘home’.

They have a patented way of calling. I am going to have a tough time describing it but let me still give it a try.  Oozing with confidence, they walk straight to her with their right hand stretched out as if performing the ‘Hitler Salute’ and their index and the middle finger flickering like the tongue of a King Cobra.

With their powerful ‘eye-scanners’ and ‘cache-memory’ they instantly compile her profile with just one look and start uttering the names of the colleges she might be studying in, while they are walking up to her. This is important too. I have had some painful experiences of losing out a high-paying sawari to a 'competitor' because I said Stephens and he said Miranda!

One girl, one rickshaw-walla; ideal scenario. One girl, two rickshaw-wallas still manageable. But one girl, ten Rickshaw-wallas; it’s a mess. It’s like a Prime time ‘debate’ in which Manish Tiwari, Digvijay Singh, Navjot singh Sidhu, Suhel Seth, Baba Ramdev and ... Arnab Goswami are all hollering together! Poor viewer!

And we must not forget the flickering fingers here. Often they come so close to the face, they can jab the eyes out and sometimes, go 'down the neckline' as well, knowingly or unknowingly. (I must clarify that I haven't been an eye-witness to the latter, however I have heard of such incidences couple of times)

This is a serious matter and I appreciated when the police took cognizance of it. On one such day, when the rickshaw-wallas bugged a girl too much, the police constable reprimanded them. Everybody was on the defensive, saying they didn't do it. Some going to the extent saying that they didn't even go inside the station!

Mob is a very strange thing – It comprises of honest and upright individuals who do anarchic things when together. While anarchy would be a very strong word but we certainly make a bedlam out of the Metro Station. When I asked people why they go inside, their standard reply was, “If you don’t go inside, you won’t get any sawari”.

“What if nobody goes inside?”
“I won’t go but who will convince others? I am here for the past xyz years. This ‘gandgi’ (chaos) has always been here and it always will be. Nothing will change. Nobody will understand.”
“Maybe, if you understand, others will too.”
“Ok. I won’t go inside but would you take a responsibility that others don’t”
“I guess, most of the people here already agree (they didn't  and I would try to convince any new rickshaw-walla coming this way”

And so it all began. An unwritten pact came into existence which said - nobody would lay foot on the floor of the Metro Station (Stairs were the ‘grey area’ though).

The biggest factor pitted against this pact was - there was no Metro Security Guard manning the exit gate that day. So there was no ‘threat’ against going deep inside the station. It was just mutual respect and self-restraint that was holding it together.

It didn't have a flying start either. In the beginning, nobody took it seriously and the moment the metro came, most of the ‘convinced’ guys rushed in. But few stayed out and that was the 'critical mass'.
Giving reference of these people was for more effective in convincing the ‘non-conformists’. Their number fell drastically when the next Metro arrived. The pact was catching up momentum!

"Abbe o, andar kahan ja raha hai @#$%* ? neeche aa ja" (where the hell are you going in, @#$%* ? come down), were the words of a hitherto vehement opposer to a person trying to get in. Now the pact had become self-sustaining. I have noticed that staunch opposers are generally ‘influences’. Once you get them by your side, half of your job is done. They will then convince/coerce others. And that's exactly what happened. It’s a snow-ball effect.

And then the magic happened – nobody went inside! Standing on the last step, just off the floor of the station, they were doing their ‘pick-up routines’. It was a very exhilarating and satisfying moment!

I must confess that there were occasions when a new entrant, unaware of the pact, simply walked in, enticing others to follow but there were occasions as well when they called (along with expletives!) that guy back. 

This pact was signed at around 11 AM and it remained in effect till 4 PM (beyond which I couldn't skip the lunch). During this time I couldn't earn anything.