I’ve been asking myself one question a lot in the
recent past: What kind of a traveller do you want to be? And the most natural
thing I have come up with is: The kind who through her stories can exhort
others to want to experience similar, if not the same things.
Honestly, while I do enjoy visiting places of
history, art and culture I don’t think I do a good enough job of writing out
those pieces. But I try. And that’s what my previous piece on things I did
while in Odisha was all about.
|Tribal art in Odisha - Gond painting|
This one is also about Odisha – but it’s of one that
comes from a more personal space. I’ve uncovered the side of me that digs
living like a local when I go to new places - be it aimlessly walking through a
market place or hoping into auto-rickshaws and buses!
Odisha was welcoming. Unlike before, I wasn’t
returning to Delhi from Chhattisgarh. A little over the half mark in my six
month fellowship at SocialCops, it seemed alright for me to carry on towards
Odisha. I had spent about 10 days with Raipur as my base – my shortest stint so
far. It almost felt as if I had left Chhattisgarh in a rush. May be I had.
I’ve lived close to the coast my entire life so
perhaps there’s a certain familiarity about reaching a coastal place for me. Of
course with all things familiar, humidity and the mugginess on your skin are
included. In addition, what I registered instantaneously within my first couple
of hours in Bhubaneswar that Sunday was that the locals are among the most
genuine and helpful people. Rickshaw drivers included.
Local travel in India can be a bit painful for both
the initiated and the uninitiated. If modes of transport exist, then ease of
availability is an issue. If availability isn’t an issue, then willingness to
ply could be a pain point. And if it’s neither of these, then it boils down to
the tariff being charged.
In either case, you cannot win so you may as well
play along within reasonable limits of course!
It was my third day in the city of Bhubaneswar and I
had stepped out of a meeting with the CEO of an NGO. It was 4 in the afternoon
and the sun was at its infernal best. I plodded along as my soles burnt inside
my sandals to find me an auto rickshaw. I didn’t think them to be scarce but if
they were then this wasn’t a good time to find that out. I hadn’t been able to
grab lunch that noon.
|Travel tip advisor!|
There were a few plying but they were in some mood –
the mood to refuse fare. After a while one of them slowed down and enquired,
“Where do you want to go?” There were 4 passengers already seated inside. “This
is a shared auto madam. I can drop you off along with the rest of them”, he
said casting a glance around him, “and you can find another auto to take you to
your destination.” Shared autos are what the locals use so the fares are quite
cheap. The only thing to note is that you would have to change three and
sometimes four autos to get from Point A to Point B – it’s a small price to pay
for a ride that’s pocket friendly.
And so I hopped in. I gulped down half my water
bottle but it provided little respite as the hot air smacked me in my face. A
couple of minutes later, it was time to hop off but the driver turned around
and offered to drop me all the way. “Madam I’ll drop till your hotel but will
you pay me Rs. 50 more instead?” I did the math. He was still charging me a lot
lesser than what I’d otherwise have had to pay. I agreed.
“You must never hop into the first auto. Not
especially when you’re taking one from right outside your hotel” he started to
say almost without any prelude “It is anyway easy to spot someone when they are
from the outside. You will be overcharged. You shouldn’t have to pay all that
extra money. Take 10 more steps and ask another driver. Negotiate the rate and
only then get in.”
He seemed genuine with his concern. I thanked him and
paid him a little extra when I got off. I was happy for the advice.
I’m the sort who feels guilty for bargaining because
I’m never sure if my gut is right about someone trying to dupe me. So it goes
without saying then that in the days that followed when anyone overcharged me
for a ride they didn’t get away with the last word. Or rupee for that matter!
Have you received travel tips from unexpected quarters through your journeys? I would love to hear about them through comments below.
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Labels: Bhubaneswar, female solo traveller, India, Odisha, solo travel, travel