Ismael ferries passengers across the city from eight in the morning till eight at night, and hardly gets any spare time. But he loves his job. “I don’t mind the hard work. I am my own boss. I can’t think of taking up any other profession,” he says. He is familiar with the every nook and corner in Bangalore. When asked how he got acquainted with the roads, Ismael says, “Not by maps. My first teachers were passengers; they told me about the major landmarks in the city, which route to take etc. During my initial driving days, the city wasn’t so crowded. Traffic was minimal. But now, the city has changed so much!”

Does he find traffic jams bothersome? “No,” Ismael replies, “They aren’t. We auto drivers have got used to it. There are some good and bad cops, yes. But that’s a part of our jobs.” He does have complaints, though, against passengers and errant drivers. “I don’t like passengers who talk incessantly over phone. They keep talking, keep talking and then when we reach the destination, they complain, ‘you have taken a long route!’ instead of talking over phone, they should give us directions. It’s annoying.” He says bus drivers are friendly, but bikers are, at times, a nuisance. “Most of them are oblivious to what is happening because they are busy listening to music. They waste time and don’t give us way. They are rash drivers and have no sensitivity. They don’t even give way to ambulances.” Koramangala Ring Road is the best road to drive through. “The road is well made and the traffic well managed.”

Ismael says they demand extra money to places where they don’t get passengers. “For example, if we go to Frazer Town, we hardly get any passengers. We have to ask for more money, then. But I always go by metre.” He reveals that auto drivers receive little support from the Government. “Getting loans from banks to buy our own vehicles is very difficult.”

(I Am is a weekly feature on the men and women who make the city what it is)