Gave somebody a ride yesterday, and realised that the hitchhiking/lift culture does not exist in Mumbai, unlike in Delhi. At least it did when I was in college. And most of us – particularly the hostel residents – spent our student years in Delhi relying on lifts to get around.

The rules were simple. Cars wouldn’t stop for men. So, if there was a woman in the group, she would be standing there, thumb out, and presto – the cars would stop. Then we’d crawl out of the bushes. 80% of the times, the guy would sheepishly consent to give us all a ride. If you were alone, you could try the two-wheelers. They generally stopped.

You did end up meeting some weird people. Like the time my girlfriend and I were trying to hitch across to Priya Cinema and had managed to get as far as Mathura Road. After a while, a car stopped ahead of us, and we saw a bangle-laden, mehndi-ed hand beckon us from the front passenger’s side. We went up, and the guy who was driving asked “Aap lift maang rahe the?” (Were you asking for a lift?). When we said yes, he asked us to get in. This was a strange looking pair. The woman was really heavily made-up, bejewelled and looked dressed for a wedding in the middle of the afternoon. Everything about the guy screamed Delhi. The guy said again: “to India main bhi log lift mangte hain? (So people take lifts in India too?), followed by a pause that begged the question. I obliged. “Aap India say nahin hain?” (Aren’t you from India?), to which I got the reply, also in Hindi, “nahin, main to german say hoon” (I am from german). Thankfully he didn’t burst into his Hindi version of Deutschland, Deutschland über alles….

Then there was this time – again en route to Priya, but this time at Dhaula Kuan – that a car with two young exec types stopped. There were three of us – with the mandatory woman – and we got into the back seat. There were office bags lying there, and the driver told us, in a fake American accent, a là Salman Khan, “yeah, don’t worry, shove that stuff in the back guys”. We shoved. Then, with accent as strong as ever: “so you guys heading to Priya huh? To catch a movie?” We, silently, in our heads : “Du-uh, moron.” He: “so which movie are you guys going to watch?” My friend gave the name of the film. To which the guy said: “oh, axxelant movie yaar”. Moral of the story: You can take the guy out of the Dally, but you cannot take the Dally out of the guy!

One final memorable encounter, but that’s for Part II.