Other day, I was watching the new Sprite ad on TV where a guy with a bike outdoes a guy with a car, apparently staged around the concept of hitch-hike or in common parlance, lift.
I thought the ad is flawed, who gives and takes lift these days? The person giving the lift thinks – you never know who the person is, a creep may be or a thug, and the person taking the lift thinks exactly the same. And in cities, if a guy asks a girl standing on a bus stop for a lift, we all know what the assessment of most people would be in such a case. Finally, there are movies like Road or hitch-hike, that present all gory details of giving lifts.
Lifts used to be such a great help earlier – when I had limited money and no vehicle, lift was like a godsend. My college was in a totally godforsaken place, on the highway in Greater Noida – when the only habitant of that place seemed to be couple of colleges, their students and faculty members. Lift was our saviour, and definitely a mode of travel when all other options like commuting with fellow student who had cars or the college bus were exhausted. The great help came in avatar of cars, scooter and bike riders, trucks, tractor trawlers, auto-rickshaws (incredible!) and virtually all sorts of vehicles possible. The thrill of saving 10-20 bucks from those bloodsucking DTC and Private buses was immense; and the money was obviously diverted on other excursions.
That was then, 12 -13 years ago. Now, tables have turned. I am behind wheels and travel through a highway. I am fully aware of surroundings and perils of engaging with strangers, especially lifts. I again thought the sprite ad is bakwas, lifts are passé..
Then only couple of days back, I was again passing through the highway and just to reconfirm the route, I asked about my destination to a couple of guys standing near the bus stop. Standing along with those guys was a very old man, fondly called “Tau” in this part of the world. He asked me whether he can come along as he is going in the same direction. I just gave a glance in Tau’s direction and said hop-on.Tau was my co-passenger for around 25-30 KM in my long journey of 180 KM. While driving, I thought WTF, I am sitting with a complete stranger on a highway! I was really pissed off at my decision to re-confirm the direction and agreeing to give lift to Tau. I started to casually chat a little with him. Frankly he was not able to understand most things I was saying and the same is true for me. But like most Indian conversations among strangers, we talked about crops, politics, schools and colleges, weather, four-laning of roads, the new highway cutting across farms, and so on…
Gradually, it became better and one more glance at Tau made me realize that had I not been in the scene, old man would have waited for the roadways bus to arrive and probably reached at the honourable roadways driver’s pace. I have probably saved him some hassle and time, which he may or may not feel happy about.
After dropping Tau at his destination, rest of the journey, I was contemplating the trust deficit between two unknown, unrelated persons in today’s world. The situation is alarming and we are being too paranoid / cynical / insecure by putting all fellow human beings into one basket. Partly the reason why most people are left to die on the road. But then, we read newspaper reports and Police advisory on Highway commuting…Better safe than sorry?
On second thoughts, Sprite TV Ad may not be flawed – lifts may still be in vogue, somewhere.