The name National Capital Region (different from NCT) seems to exist only on paper and for the mobile phone networks. Spanning three states, it is just an excuse for incessant traffic jams and inflated property prices. For a poor non-vehicle-owning commuter like me, travelling across the NCR is a pain in the you-know-where. Delhi Transport Corporation buses do not enter Uttar Pradesh and UP no longer plies its vehicles into Delhi. Both sides impounded a number of the other’s buses. Things are also not very good down south with Haryana. Delhi registered autorickshaws do not cross the interstate border into Gurgaon and the ones which agree to enter Uttar Pradesh demand a ransom. The overcrowded privately run blue-line buses and the infrequent chartered buses provide little respite.
In this urban chaos, there comes to the rescue an unlikely saviour – the call centre cabs. Infamous for their negligent and rash driving, these cabs are a boon to travellers commuting between Noida, Delhi and Gurgaon. The main motive might be money making in the sly by the drivers, but it also doubles up as ‘social service,’ providing cheap, fast and comfortable travel in a city which only has the metro rail to boast about in the name of efficient public transport (the high-capacity buses are too few and DTC drivers get their cut from their blue-line competitors for not picking up passengers). Rs 10 for any distance traveled and I like to add a little thank you for the driver, whose ‘selfish motive’ eases an otherwise arduous journey.
Depending on the size of the vehicle they drive, the drivers make anything between Rs 40-100 a trip. Often the cops demand a tenth-of-a-grand. The driver simply smiles, displaying his tobacco stained teeth, “Soochonga free mein lift de diya (I’ll think that I’ve given a lift for free).”
Well, it was almost free for me. Rs 10 for a smooth ride from Noida to Dhaula Kuan and another tenner for Dhaula Kuan to Gurgaon (a distance of over 40 kilometres) and that too in only an hour’s time.