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Couples say it's safer.
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In this city, where coochi-cooing between young unmarried couples goes on discreetly in public gardens, autos are often considered a safer substitute. There is more privacy and less risk involved.
"No one is watching you from the bushes or clicking your pictures on his mobile phone," says Ms Sarita Kumar, a nurse in a South Delhi hospital. Each evening on her off days she and her boyfriend rent an auto for an hour and ask the bhayya to go round and round India Gate. Their joy rides always end with ice creams.
"It's great for those who are desperate for space and desperate to off-load the heat of the moment," says Mr Neeraj Kumar, a software professional in his early 20s. "It also suits my girlfriend." Mr Kumar's friend is off parks since November, 2008, when they were spotted by an 'uncle' in Nehru Park. Autos, they soon discovered, keep away the prying eyes. No one watches them there except perhaps the auto walla bhayya.
The auto wallas have a different take. "Our attention gets diverted and there is higher risk of accident," says auto driver Mr Ram Pratap. Sometimes he ends up fighting with couples. "The moment these couple-log take their place, they start doing ayyashi. They smoke, drink, kiss and sometimes cross all limits," he says. "They think we auto-wallas are blind and can't see anything."
Mr Rohit Arora, another auto driver, says that, according to his experience, most 'incidents' occur in posh areas of South Delhi like Vasant Kunj, as well as in Central Delhi. "It starts around 8 pm and is mostly centered in places like India Gate, Connaught Place, and Ring Road."
But hotelier Mr Anuj Jaiswal's memorable ride took place on a different route: on the stretch between Red Fort and Greater Kailash-I. "We were having moongphalis. I would crack open the shell, pop the nuts into my lover's mouth and he would do the same. We also kissed frequently," he says.
However, not all couples find autos a good place for coupling. "It's open and there's a driver," says Ms Radhika Iyer, a student in Delhi University. "Autos are just not appropriate. I like cars."