Baba Gyani Triviani said:
"Auto-rickshaws and auto-drivers are unstable, the former because of three wheels, the latter because, well, that's the way they are... What?"
"There is one, go and ask him". "Do I have to? Alright alright, stop poking my ribs" I said. I looked at the auto-driver again. The uncouth man with a shabby shirt and unshaved face was sitting idly, looking at nothing in particular. He scratched his face with all five fingers of his hand, for he didn't have any more to spare. Then he stuck his little finger into his ear and drilled it for a few seconds, pulled it out and without much thought took it to his nose and sniffed at it. I made a face and turned to look at my wife. "What? Stop staring and ask him!" she said again. I began walking towards him, being deliberately slow, hoping against all hopes that he would suddenly start his vehicle and ride away. But no such thing happened and I eventually covered those ten metres. "Basavanagudi?" I said softly. I think I startled him, or jolted him out of dreamland, for his mouth was wide open as he jerkily twisted his neck to look at me. "Eh?" he said. I repeated my destination again. "One and a half" was his reply.
"What? It's just four kilometres and it's afternoon. Why in heaven's name should I pay you extra?" I said. This was day-light robbery. "Too much traffic" he said with a straight face. A rehearsed answer. "Yeah, that's why I am going in an auto-rickshaw. Otherwise I'd have driven myself" I said. "Well, you should have" he said and returned to staring at nowhere again. I was piqued and decided to blow a raspberry at him. Then deciding against it, I walked back to my wife. "Well?" she asked. "Same old, same old. One and a half" I said, shaking my head. "So?" she said.
"So? Why should we pay extra? It's still afternoon and it's the centre of the city! It's not like he won't get a fare from there" I said. I added "Besides, it's just four kilometres. Let's start walking and maybe we can catch a bus" I said. "Are you crazy? Let's go in that auto. It's rare that we get an auto-driver to agree to our destination. Ordinarily you are expected to ask which way they are originally going, and if it happens to be in the general direction of your destination, you hire him and pay him for being kind enough to agree." she ranted. "Yeah, lucky us. Autocracy, what?" I snorted, and with a wounded pride decided to go hire that rickshaw. If I had been alone, I would have walked all the way. Four kilometres is hardly a walk. But with the good ol' ball and chain with me, I would never hear the end of it. "Alright, let's go" I said as I approached him again. He looked at her and then at me, and grinned an annoying grin. He had a missing tooth and I had a mind to add one more to that list.
Auto-drivers are a rummy lot. Imagine the plight of the poor little chappie who's running late one fine morning, and walks up to an auto-stand and tries to hire one, forced into the horrendous task of convincing him with a five point reason of why he should be allowed to hire the auto, and maybe, just maybe, if the driver is satisfied with at least four of the points or if he pities the poor chap, he may decide to take you there at a nominal charge... over and above the actual charge of course. Why, the other day, I was limping away from a hospital to my house, covered all over in bandages having met with an accident a couple of days before, and I frantically waved my hands to flank one. He slowed down and, in a brusque manner asked, "What?" I told him my destination. "No" he said. "Whoa! Have a look at me, my dear man" I reasoned. "Do you expect me to walk all the way in this condition with these bally bandages?" I asked. "What do you expect me to do about it?" he retorted angrily and sped away. "Oh for humanity!" I cried at the white cloud of kerosene smoke he had left behind. I often wonder how it is that they make money enough to fill their faces, for I have never seen a lean looking auto-driver. I mean, they always sit around in their huddles and gossip all day long. Really, how do they make up for it?
Rumours are, though, that most of these are, in reality, goons for hire. And that's where they make their money from. This is just a front, you know, in case their wives are asked by the neighbours, or if that distant uncle asks them, or when the crime branch ask them. They can't very well go ahead and say, "Yeah, I am a hacker, but not the computer sorts, if you know what I mean" as they wink and show their machetes. But they are a rummy lot, I repeat. The other day, I had the displeasure of being stuck at a certain otherwise crowded bus stop with a certain pal of mine, the displeasure being, of course, being stuck at that bus stop, at a very odd hour at night. There were at least some eight other people waiting at the bus stop and we were sure that no bus would arrive at that hour. We had called up our friends to pick us up from there. However, the others, it seemed, were waiting for private buses to take them to their destinations. And whenever a private bus would appear, these auto-drivers who were waiting like a pack of hyaenas behind us would come forth and threaten to break the glass windows of the buses if they dared to stop there, for they wanted to force these poor hapless coves into hiring their services, which of course, they will charge twice or maybe even more. I say. this is hooliganism, and right royally at that. They did so openly, and nobody dared to argue. I mean, they are the kind of people a right minded cove would never want to deal with.
"Stop dreaming, we are there" she said. "Quit poking my ribs" I said. "Then get out" she said. "Right ho!" I looked outside. We were at Basavanagudi. The metre reading was 32. "That's Rs. 54" he said. "Rs. 48" I corrected. "Saar, I had told madam in the beginning only that the metre has some flaw. Ask her" he complained. "Yeah yeah, alright" I said. I was getting impatient. I handed Rs. 60 to him. He put it in his pocket and sped away. "Hallo hallo hallo! What about the change?" I shouted at the white cloud of kerosene smoke that was now in the place formerly occupied by his jalopy. "What the deuce! Shopkeepers at least give us sugar-boiled candy as change!" I protested. "Look at this pretty handbag" responded my wife. Wife-beating, I wonder why it's illegal.
"No wonder they sit around making merry most of the time. This chap actually robbed me. Day light robbery, literally" I said ruefully. "You know how they make money? They lend money at high rates of interest. I know this because our maid told us." said my wife, adding "This auto-driving is just a charade, side business, you know, in case the neighbour asks his wife. Or that distant uncle asks at a wedding..." "Or when the crime branch decides to do some investigation about hacking..." I muttered "Did you say something?" she asked. I just shook my head, looked at the watch, looked at the sky and said "It looks like it is going to rain in a bit. Let's leg it, shall we?".
We were waiting to cross the street. There seemed to be a traffic signal and the cars were all waiting. And then arrived a maverick on three wheels. He honked a weak and shrill sounding horn, I was pretty sure I imagined it, for it was that inaudible. And on realising that nobody would respond, he decided to take charge. I was wondering how he would manage to drive past, there didn't seem to be enough space on the road. I really wanted to punch his face, that impatient little blighter. I couldn't see his face with the reflection from his windshield showing me the trees, the clouds, the birds and all that. Suddenly that auto came towards me, and one tyre came on the pavement! I was startled, and before I could react, he sped past, with that one tyre going on my foot. "Why you little blighter!" I started, and again, I was talking to a cloud of kerosene. "I could've sworn he just gave me the bird" I said angrily. "Wasn't it the same guy we hired?" said my wife.
How has your experience been? I personally loathe auto-rickshaws and avoid them as much as I can...
Comments from Twitter
lokesh acharya @acharya2
Nice one sir .. Very true"@Gulagulaananda: 'Auto-crats' on three wheels... - http://lifeasiknowit-nik.blogspot.com/2012/10/autocracy.html …" @niranjanl
Niranjan Lakshmanan @niranjanl
@acharya2 @Gulagulaananda nice article. Can add so much more to that list.
lokesh acharya @acharya2
@niranjanl @Gulagulaananda true... There are soo many bad experiences I had at Mysore :( dono about Bangalore :$
Niranjan Lakshmanan @niranjanl
@acharya2 yeah I had at both the places. @Gulagulaananda probably you can write one more article if you feel it's necessary.
@acharya2 @Gulagulaananda about few drivers bad attitude and some tips to people on how to handle them.
Lokesh:Again, nice one sir.
here in Mysore also same is the case. :(
U may not blv, aftr 9.30pm they demand 100 rs - fr jus 3.5km.
Also, usually they wil nt take us til home, ll drop at th nearby auto stand only.. :(
As u hv said,better t walk than t hire an auto :)
many times I have walked all the way till home.. Jus recalled al the bad experiences I had with these leeches ..