Indian Journey Part IX: Tempting Death
I risked death several times during my stay in India. And no, it’s not the spicy food. It’s the crazy traffic that I mentioned in any earlier post.
On our second day in Hyderabad, we decided to go grab a late night snack at the luxurious Marriott Hotel at around 10pm. After finding out that a booked taxi would cost us 700 rupees to get there compared to a 50 rupee auto rickshaw ride, we opted for the latter in order to save a bit of cash. After all, the Marriott was only 4km away. How bad could it be?
Anyway, we got the hotel to arrange two autos for the four people (two in each) and they negotiated a 50 rupee fare for each one. The ride there took about 15 minutes, but it was a heart-stopping ride as the auto zig-zagged through speeding traffic and we were jolted out of our seats every time the little three-wheeled vehicle hit a bump or pot hole (and there were plenty of them). It was pretty scary, and we decided after arriving at the Marriott that 700 rupees on the way back would probably be worth it.
However, when we were ready to leave, we asked the hotel reception, who said that it would cost us 1300 rupees to get a taxi back to the Taj Tristar (where we stayed). 1300 rupees! We weighed that up against the cost of an auto ride and thought, what the heck, we’ll risk our lives again.
The hotel basically told us to go out of the gates and find our own autos, which we did, thinking that it wouldn’t be all that hard. After all, my marrying mate had told us that the city of Hyderabad “comes alive” after 11pm each night. I think he got “comes alive” and “drops dead” mixed up, because when we exited onto the street it was eerily quiet, not an auto to be seen anywhere.
We waited and walked around, and finally a lone auto headed our way. Realising that this was our only chance to get back to the hotel, my colleague was happy to pay double (ie 100 rupees) for the ride. The auto’s driver for some reason had a companion with him in the front seat, so the four of us all squeezed into the back seat. We were basically sitting on each other’s laps. I thought this was uncomfortable until I saw that it was nothing because locals often packed six or seven people into the same space! Once we even saw 10 people on a single auto!
If we thought the ride to the Marriott was rough, the ride back was ten times worse. For starters, the streets were almost completely empty, with only the occasional sedan driving in the opposite direction, usually coming right at us because this auto had no lights. “Come alive” my arse.
The auto traversed various back alleys and rough roads, and we had absolutely no idea where it was going. For all we knew they could have been driving us somewhere to rob us. Did I mention that the driver didn’t exactly know where our hotel was? We showed him the hotel’s business card, but he didn’t look confident at all (no head wobble).
At last we arrived at a giant intersection, and the driver turned around and asked, “Left or right?” Taking a wild stab in the dark, we pointed left. Fortunately, the 50% gamble paid off and it was the right direction. Shortly after we could see the hotel. Imagine if we got it wrong?!
Unbelievably, the day the wedding concluded, we went back to the Marriott for dinner. I don’t know what went through our minds, but we ended up catching autos to and back, after vowing never to risk our lives in one of those things ever again! I guess being cheapskates outweighed safety.