I wandered out of Hetauda Community Eye Hospital, barely able to open my eyes in the sun, thanks to the drops they gave me to dilate my pupils. At the hospital door, there were a couple of options to get home. Two types of rickshaws--- auto (Diesel-powered akin to Thai tuk-tuk) or Mayuri (electric).
I prefer Mayuri because it is slightly spacious, more open, and electric, but most importantly, it has a cool name. After all, who doesn't want to ride a peacock?
I went straight to Mayuri, but there was no driver. I went to a nearby shop to ask if the shopkeeper knew the whereabouts of the driver. The shopkeeper and I both shouted for him. "Hello, Mayuriiii." "Hajur…" shouted back Auto's driver. I wanted to take Mayuri but wasn't in a situation to wait.
I sat in the Auto, told my destination, and asked about the fare. I knew the fare of Mayuri but didn't know that the Auto and Mayuri had the same fare.
It is 50 rupees hajur, and people won't ride if I charge more. He appeared a bit annoyed by my question.
No more rickshaws in Hetauda now, right? I knew the answer but wanted to have some conversation along the way.
[For decades, human-powered rickshaws used to be the standard mode of transportation within the city. It was one of the city's identity.]
Yeah, no more rickshaws, and I want all Mayuris to go away. I even wish all autos to go away. This business sucks. I need to kowtow to lots of people to earn just 700 rupees a day. If I work in construction, I make 1000. There's just too many Mayuri and Autos, making it challenging to earn a living.”
If Mayuri/Autos go away, what should replace them? I asked.
Something bigger and less numerous. So that I can carry more people at once and there's less competition among the vehicles. I am not allowed to take more than three, although I have taken six sometimes. These days even three is hard to fill.
[I, too, was alone for the ride, leaving two seats vacant!]
I spent six lakhs on buying this Auto. Then gave 12,000 to register to Sangh[association of the vehicle owners]. I never wanted this, I knew this was not a good idea, but my wife forced me. There was more intensity in this voice now.
Can you buy your vehicle and run without registering to Sangh? Again, I knew the answer but wanted the conversation to continue.
Of course not. It's not allowed.
Do you have to pay monthly dues to sangh?
Yes, 2500 per month. Now you see the problem. Every month, I pay the auto loan, then I pay to Sangh.
You need to buy fuel every day, I added.
Exactly, I buy fuel and also spend on maintenance. At the end of the day, I don't save much for myself. I am serving the public and the Sangh but suffering myself. I need to earn 60000 per month to make a decent profit, but I hardly make 20-22000. It's just too hard. It would be nice if life were just a little bit easy. His voice was strained.
We arrived at my destination. I paid the fare and my respect and got off the Auto.