"You are early," the domestic help said taking a small break from her now customary angst.
"I took the Metro," I said cheerfully, flaunting my smart card as I breezed in.
"What will people like us do, if people like you start taking the Metro?" she said accusingly.
I was stumped. I had forgotten her husband was an auto driver. "You know," I started lamely but she gave me no opening.
"My husband either sits at home or goes to sleep," she lamented. "What is the point waiting on the road when no one wants to take an auto?" she looked at me pointedly.
"You can at least take an Ola or Uber," she said, continuing the tirade. I remembered that her son drove a cab and was attached to both the aggregators.
"It is really the taxis which were eating into the demand for autos," I tried to explain, absolving myself of all guilt. "No," she sighed, "even the boy is in bad shape."
Mercifully, she did not blame me and people like me explicitly. The culprits were the office people who cut the perks of those they employed. Those who used to get a cab for themselves were now forced to share it. Four trips became just one and, to add insult to injury, the aggregators had sharply reduced the payment per trip. They had also cut the incentives with which they had lured young boys and their ambitious mothers. All that the boys were left with was a huge car, expensive repairs and finance company debts.
Between the auto and the cab she juggled the loans every month. "Like a dosa," she smiled. "I turn it once this side and once the other side, but pay I must."
A finance company is not like a bank. They have ways of recovering a loan. I remembered advising her to get the boy a smaller car on a bank loan. They had opted for a second-hand sedan. All the drivers in her neighbourhood had big cars. They had assured her son that the earnings were so good that they had also gone in for a television and a refrigerator. Now the monthly instalments stared her in the eye.
To add to her woes, her daughters mother-in-law kept inviting her entire extended family for one thing or another. The shameless relatives were ever ready to go; some in the auto and the more important ones in the car. None thought of offering to share the cost. Of late, her husband and son had both become clever. The husband pleaded he was tired and the boy wanted to catch up on his sleep.
"Now, did the relatives want to bring out their vehicles?" she asked rhetorically and answered herself with an emphatic, "No". They could do such things but what could she do? How could she create more problems for her daughter? She had to go.
Suddenly her mood changed dramatically. She perked up and scrubbing the dishes enthusiastically declared, "I will take the Metro."