Poker-playing in Srinagar
When I left the School of Designs to get a ride from Jehangir Chowk to the airport, I’d been warned a couple of times that autorickshaws were not allowed on the airport property, leaving me about 1 1/2 km. short of the terminal. I tried to get acknowledgement on this point with the drivers who were interested in me – seemingly nobody took notice. But it was rickshaws that was offering to take me, it was a nice day, I was in plenty of time, and no authorized “sumo”/minibus seemed at first glance available. I have felt self-conscious before, hiring a 6 – 9 passenger vehicle for my sole use (as in the pre-paid taxis from the airport), so I took the autorickshaw. The agreed fare was Rs.250. My driver threaded his way steadily through the heavily-trafficked and the hidden by-ways. It was already the right choice.
As we neared the airport, I began to wonder why my driver was trying to get the attention of a sumo driver. Finally he succeeded, and I realized it was to take me the “last mile”. I paid my driver his Rs.250 in large notes, and it developed there was some momentary issue about “change”. On reflection, I suppose he had tried to negotiate some portion of Rs.50 with the sumo driver. The driver of the empty sumo, probably on his way to position himself for a pickup, shepherded me helpfully through the airport entry checkpoints and baggage screening, to reach the terminal drop-off. In response to “As you like,” always a clever and charming deflection, I was happy to give him Rs.100, for a total of Rs.350, instead of the sumo fare of Rs.550. When did I think it might have been less than Rs.50? When did he think it would probably be more? He, at least, was right. Did he get the Rs.50 note earlier? I don’t think so…he seemed too easy-going for that.
It was a case where we all knew there was a problem, my autorickshaw driver couldn’t explain to me what the worked-out solution was, and for all the reasons previously stated, I trusted that there was one, that he wasn’t just going to drop me off at the airport gate with a show of helplessness, or I-thought-you-knew-about-it. They shone, and I was blessed.