It all started when I left the coffee shop. With the last of my caramel latte sloshing around in my cup, I make my way back to the office.
It was a clear day, the noon sun high in the sky and blazing down on the hot tarmac. I take a last, grateful sip of the cold drink and throw it aside. I’d walked a few steps forward when I realised that something was amiss. I hadn’t heard the sound of the cup hitting the street.
I stop and look back. There was nothing in the place where the cup should’ve been. Had it been carried away by the wind? But it was a still day. There wasn’t a trace of breeze. I decided to dismiss it as my imagination running wild and move on.
Mulling over the end of another uneventful day, I walk down the road to my little studio apartment and see a little figure standing motionless next to the door.
I walked slowly down to the door and see that it’s a woman. She’s slightly shorter than me and dressed in a flabby shirt with her hair in a loose bun.
“Can I help you? “ I ask, squinting down at her in the dim light of the overhead bulb.
“Are you Tara?” she asks with a small smile.
“Yes…I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“Oh no. But I wish you did” she says mysteriously.
She holds out her hand. “You can call me Gaia or Tonantzin or, if you prefer to keep it local, Bhuma Devi. It’s nice to meet you Tara.”
I don’t quite know what to say to that.
“Cat got your tongue?” she tilts her head slightly.
“What? I’m sorry, I think you’ve got the wrong person. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to..uh..go. “ I push the door open and slam it shut behind me. I run up the stairs and almost run right into the woman from the front door.
“HOW ON EARTH DID YOU DO THAT?” I yell, frightened out of my wits.
She bursts out laughing. “Funny you should ask” she gasps, holding her stomach.
“I’m going to call the police.” I say as I whip my phone out, slightly panicking now. “Oh, don’t bother dear. You won’t receive any signal. I’ve notified the clouds and they’ve promised me they would block your phone’s reception.” She smiles cheerfully as it was her regular hobby to corner strangers and block their connectivity. But dammit, unbelievably she’s right. I look ay my phone now, which is flashing the ‘No Signal’ sign.
“All right. How much do you want? “ I ask, defeated.
“How much do I want of what? “ Her expression changes.
“Money of course!”
“You think I’m a petty thief? Actually, that’s ironical, given your position…” She trails off.
There’s a minute of silence where I’m too dumbfounded to say anything.
“Who are you then? And what the hell do you want?” I’m desperate. I can’t enter my apartment knowing she’d be lurking around.
She gives me a benign smile.
“I’ve told you that, haven’t I? Tara, I’m the Earth. This my human form.” She says, spreading her hands dramatically.
I raise my eyebrows. “Okay, nice try. But it’s too early for Halloween and that’s a terrible costume.”
“So you don’t believe me then?”
“Of course I don’t.” I scoff.
She sighed. “You leave me with no choice. Open the door.”
“Open your apartment’s door Tara. Just do it, it won’t kill you.”
Feeling like I’ve got nothing to lose, I insert the key in the lock and push the door open and switch the light on.
What I see inside almost makes me lose my mind.
For those who have been living under a rock, ride-sharing or carpooling, as it is more popularly known, is when the owner of a car offers to share the available space in his or her car with other people who are headed in the same direction. This reduces the number of vehicles on the roads significantly and also facilitates the sharing of the petrol cost, because let’s face it, petrol prices in our country is higher than some of our life goals.
Carpooling is like a blessing in disguise for people who travel solo in their car for close to 2 hours to reach their workplace. The traffic snarls, the long hours, and the solitude, it’s bound to take its toll. Also, by travelling alone, we’re wasting an enormous amount of space which could be otherwise usefully occupied by a co-worker, for example.
R.B. Fuller said- “Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.”
There are over 30 lakh cars in Delhi alone. Even if 50% of these are occupied by a single person, the number is still alarming. Now, if 2 people join one ride, a car is taken off the street. And this represents only one scenario. If 10000 cars stay put in their parking garages for a day, it will make all the difference.
Jatin Kuberkar’s book ‘Cabbing all the way’ strings together 4 years of carpooling into one rib tickling memoir. Thought carpooling was unheard of in India? Think again.
Across the world, Stanford University gives its students and staff a plethora of incentives to share their commute to their campus every day. Below is a testimonial published on its website.
“I tried carpooling because I was driving by myself 37 miles to work each day. I thought you know, let’s put a whole bunch of people in the car and get more cars off the road and spend less money.”- Emily Erwin, Media Production Manager, Stanford Center for Professional Development.
Carpooling has made it big in European countries. Germany has Carpooling.com and France boasts of BlaBla Car. In an interview with Heureka, Markus Bernikel, CEO of Germany based company, Carpooling stated- “We’ve (also) saved 430,000,000 Litres of gas. And 860,000 tons of Carbon Emissions.”
That’s a lot of zeroes isn’t it? With India having a population that is almost 2 times that of these countries, India should be the leading country to totally slay at the carpooling game.
Still think Carpooling is not a good idea? James Corden makes a living out of Carpool Karaoke segment on YouTube, carpooling and singing with some of the biggest celebrities on the planet.
And on that *high* note, I rest my case.