Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The thumb rules

Probably the best way to get around without having to pay anything and travel in a different car everyday.

When we were living in PV, I went to college in DU's north univ and normal procedure every day would be to get up around 5, get dressed and get out by 6.30 to make the 60-odd km trek to school.
I'd get to my spot, which was this fork in the road, with both forks heading to town and wait.
If I was lucky, I'd get a ride with someone going as far as Dhaula Kuan, though sometimes I'd hit the jackpot and get a lift right up to Tiz Hazari, which is quite near University
In the six-odd years I was hitching from that spot, during college and when I was working with India Today, I managed to cultivate a few regular 'lift-givers' like Don's Dad, Mrs Gupta, the Takrus and Jeet Kochchar, which made it easier considering all I had to do was make sure I got to that spot before their usual departure time.

From Dhaula Kuan, it was another thumb till Karol Bagh, from there to the Ice Factory, from there to St Stephen's College and then I'd either walk or hitch with any two-wheeler or take a rickshaw.
It was so much easier to get a lift when the pillion helmet rule wasn't enforced so regularly. After that came into force, it just made hitching all that more difficult. Car owners are less likely to give you a lift when compared to bike and scooter owners.
It's also much easier to get a lift if you were hitching with a girl.
But then, that's obvious.
AkShaq, our college ball team centre was this gigantic 6ft6 hulk who'd get lifts almost instantly. Compared to the half-hour-odd other guys would have to wait.
I think people gave him lifts just to see if he'd fit in the car. Once saw him riding pillion on a scooter being ridden by a girl.

After college, getting a ride back south was always a pain, so we'd take the Gurgaon University Special till Dhaula Kuan, head for lunch at Chottu's former place in Moti Bagh, crash for an hour or so and then I'd leave for theatre practice in Gautam Nagar while Chottu would push off to see Jas at the hostel.

After rehearsals got over, around 9.30, I'd hitch with whoever was going toward DK, or if I was lucky, someone staying in Gurgaon would drop me home. Else, it was head to DK, grab a 729 till the Kapashera crossing, grab another bus going to Najafgarh (886, 578, 790), get off at Bijwasan and hitch down the 2km-long village road to get back home by close to midnight.
I think I'd lose it if I still had a routine like that!

Hitching on the highway is faster, because truckers don't mind more company. There's a surprising amount of space in cabs of most desi trucks. Some come with bunk beds too. The down side is the stench of ancient sweat, fumigated urine and suffocating toe-jam that coats your clothes long after you've exited the vehicle.

There are some ground rules when it comes to hitching safely:
1) Never take a lift with shady-looking people who'll stop without you sticking your thumb out
2) Women will never give you a lift, as will old people.
3) The best types to get lifts with are the young corporate executive types. The car's usually smelling nice, there's recognisable English music on the radio, the guy's too busy talking into his handsfree to ask you annoying questions and the chances of getting an air-conditioned car are higher.
4) I'd hop out the second the guy would say he has to make either a short stop or a small detour. You never know how long that is going to take and where he's going to go.
5) To gauge when someone is thinking of stopping, keep a sharp eye out for the left hand (in a car) and watch for a gear change. On a two-wheeler, if the guy's hand reaches out to grab the clutch. This is when you put on your winning smile...being careful not to make it to psychotic and stick your thumb out at right angles to your shoulder.


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