For the last couple days we have been moving about the city in a tuktuk; think of a motorcycle with encased in a metal, covered chariot. They vary in size from two to four to six person seating; and the operative word is seating, because we have witnessed them overflowing with bodies beyond the recognizable capacity. The drivers manage the organized chaos navigating bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, people and cows. And with nary a stop light to be found, every moving motorized object honks and squeals itself into place, jockeying for an advantageous position, flashing lights of warning and squeezing into their destination. Driving is more of an art than a skill.
Each ride has been an adventure. The first night our group split into two tuktuks. Despite assurances neither knew our destination. They were ready to drop us off in a large square, surrounded by shopping, (which was the object of our venture) but not the agreed spot. Loud negotiation, a change of tuktuk, and wild gesticulations and we nudged back into traffic. We alerted our driver to our destination on the other side of the road separated by a median. He conducted a u-turn and passed the store, again. We urged him to stop, and walked back after paying 200 rupees, the equivalent of 4 dollars for a 45 minute, unscripted tour of Amritsar. The ride home was by the Indian version of Uber, called Ola, via a telephone call from our waiter at the restaraunt, for 84 rupees ($1.60) in five minutes.
Another adventure began in the pouring rain, four of us jammed into a two person tuktuk for a negotiated 100 rupee ride. Elbows hanging out for the two on the edge, the ride was going to be uncomfortable, and wet. The windshield wiper was not working for the driver as he hunched forward, squinting through the streaking water, inching through the jam. His counterpart stopped us, shouted there was a mistake and offered us another two person tuttuk for 200 rupees, but this one had flaps. For perceived safety sake, we switched vehicles with two on the seat, two facing backwards sitting on the edge of our drivers seat. Heavy rain and flooded streets, doused by waves of water from passing cars, our minute chariot driver raced to our destination, himself soaked. He turned into our guest house, the entrance flooded with five inches of water. Honking incessantly, the gates were finally opened and we were able to depart on drier ground. We paid him an additional 100 rupees.
There are more comfortable ways to travel, where you don’t breath the fumes or sit face to face with your companions or look in the eyes of every passing motorcycle driver; but, the tuktuk is the best way to experience the streets of the city as a passenger. To paraphrase the band, Immaculate Machine, I loved you for your tuktuk.