Thursday, May 4, 2006

Autorickshaw ride -- an experience

Drivers of the ubiquitous autorickshaws in India are largely a cursed lot. Well deservedly, because they are rude and arrogant; almost always looking for ways to cheat the unsuspecting passenger.

[What is an autorickshaw? Photo credit]

They are cursed even by people who don't end up as passengers! That's when they refuse to ply on a route a person wants. The refusal is curt. Reason is rarely stated; but often it is that the destination is too close for them to get a hefty fare.

My experience today evening was exceptional. I was at Benniginahalli (on Old Madras Road near the rail- over- road bridge) on my way to M G Road. There is an autorickshaw stand where the narrow road to C V Raman Nagar/ Kagdaspura begins. There were at least 10 vehicles parked.

To one driver after another I said, "M G Road." The only reply I got: "No sir." Most of us are used to a couple of them refusing to ply. But six of them, one after the other, was downright frustrating.

I asked them, why they wouldn't come to M G Road, a good 10 km away. Reason: Heavy traffic. When I told them I'm not asking for a free ride, one of them said he would come if I paid him Rs 100. This wasn't the dead of night, but 5.30 pm.

When I reminded him that it was illegal to refuse to ferry a passenger without a valid reason, and that one could complain to the police, one of the drivers nonchalantly said, "Tell anyone you want. Nothing will happen to us." I saw no point in being there.

I then walked up to the bus stop and waited for "line autos" (as different from parked autos). Within a couple of minutes, I noticed one coming by; and I promptly flagged it down. I noticed that simultaneously a young gentleman just beside me too was flagging down the same auto.

He said, "Majestic" (the name of a theatre by which the area -- where Bangalore bus-stand/ railways station is located -- is known). I said, "M G Road". He got into the auto. I looked at the driver as I involuntarly made a move to get in. He nodded to signal that I too could get in.

There was a look of protest on the face of the other man, and a feeble murmer too. I could understand his concern; for, there have been many cases of suspicious characters getting into an auto in tacit collusion with the driver, and then indulging in crime.

But, the driver ignored him saying both of us were headed in the same direction. I made use of his tacit approval to get in, even as I enquired with the driver if he would let us pay half the normal fare, since two of us were there. He said, "No. Normal fare." Which means, either of us passengers won't lose anything nor gain anything; but the driver would earn double the fare!

I couldn't help thinking of those six drivers who earlier refused to ply, and wondered whether this guy was smarter than them, though with no conscience.

My fellow passenger sat silent, sipping mango juice, eventhough I tried a couple of times to strike a conversation with him. In reply to my questions he said, he was heading to Majestic to catch a bus to Pune.

When it was time for me to alight, I looked at the meter. It showed Rs 38. He asked for Rs 50 (what according to him would be the new meter rate. Most autos haven't recalibrated their meters to the new rates.) I gave him two Rs 20 notes. Normally the fare would have been more than Rs 40. He too was in a hurry to escape the eyes of the policemen (why, I couldn't figure out).

I just slipped out, thanking my fellow passenger for tolerating me. How much he ended up paying, I don't know. But I felt I had saved Rs 10.


  1. :) oh i have lot of such exps to quote :) i was named auto rani once upon a time as i used to commute mostly by auto!! theer were ppl w ho would be nice and soem ppl who are cunning and some tryto cat smart soem very bad!! i think i have seen some of them taleats :)

  2. HAHA! amusing it is. I try to avoid autos all the time because I almost never know the way properly being spatially iiliterate.
    The auto guy sure was street smart but you got a good deal too and inspiration for this nice post,thank God.
    loved your comment on my post on God.

  3. My first trip to Madras. I got into an auto and gave the guy the T Nagar address where I wanted to go to. Fourty minutes into the drive, I noticed a certain temple for the third time. I asked him to stop. Few locals came to my aid. Later I realized that it was only a 5 minute drive. I was taken for a RIDE !!!

  4. in Delhi, not only do they demand dky-high prices, they will also ensure you take the ride! they will chase you all the way till you take the auto and if you are a bit weak in Hindi, pocket is surely going to go a lot lighter...

  5. * ENIGMA: why don't you put down those experiences?

    * TANVI: One method adopted by cunning drivers to know if you know the place well or not is to ask the direction, even if they know which way to go. Depending upon the way you answer, the "fix" you.

    * BYJU: A similar thing happened to me in Bangalore. These are pan-Indian phenomena, I suppose.

    * ARJUN: Sounds scary!

  6. self with family was at bangalore recently and one distinct thing that came across was the 'auto'anarchy.we also met few good drivers who were plainly normal.(good auto driver is simply one who doesnt cheat!)one auto driver displyed brinkmanship of a high order for flagging him and not hiring him due to his quote.we had to settle that out street style.i think it is lack of mrtp that produces these 'autocrats'.in mumbai where i stay currently taxis and rickshaws have heavy competition from train/bus and they behave better.its a supply vs demand problem overall i feel.
    mh rajesh.

  7. Thanks a lot Rajesh, for that insightful comment. Your point of monopoly is a very good one, and I don't think lot many people have thought on those lines. I think you should leave your comments more often!

  8. I was looking for a blog on atrocious-autorickshaws after a harrowing ride in an autorickshaw today.

    AutorickSHAWs take Bangaloreans for a ride. I come to office almost everyday by rick(yes, you could call me AutoRani-II) and everyday I pay a different fare, and I come by the same route!! These days I spend half hour looking for an 'electronic rick'. Most of the time, these hi-fi electronic guys dont come. (Arn't they supposed to come anywhere the customer wants? I thought that was the rule !! Isnt it?? :-( ) Well, I am tired of fighting with these guys when they dont have change.
    The line they give is "you software guys earn so much, what is problem if you lose some change?". I went to the point of telling this guy that I intend to ride an autorickshaw ,parttime, to make up for all the money I lose in commuting to my 'software job'.

    I think the government of Karnataka, which is very eager to agree to the autorickSHAWwallas everytime they ask for a price hike, should spare us ppl some trouble and atleast order all of them to get electronic meters fixed on thier kerosine-petrol-pollutedair-spewing-machines. Am sure there will be an auto bandh for a few days, if such an order came about, probably because its difficult to rig an electronic meter to show outrageous prices(matter of time, actually!).

    Phew!!! That ranting session actually felt good!!! :)