Friday, June 29, 2018

An afternoon ride in an autorickshaw

#WATWB - This post was linked to
We Are The World Blogfest
Yesterday afternoon, something quite unbelievable happened. Nothing eerie or scary, but very pleasant and feel-good.

I went to Lavelle Road on an official assignment. After my work there, I wondered if I should book a cab or hire an autorickshaw, to go to office which is on Infantry Road.

(For those who aren't familiar, an autorickshaw is a very common quick mode of transport in India. It's a three-wheeler which can seat three passengers. It costs about ₹30 for a ride of 2 km in Bengaluru.)

Since there were many autorickshaws lined up, I thought I would check them out first. Also, I thought, if I book an Uber or Ola, it might take a while for the cab to arrive.

Here is a little background to how autorickshaws operate generally in my city, Bengaluru.

Though all of them have meters, and drivers are supposed to accept only the fare the meter shows, not all of them conform to the rule. Instead, some of them, on being told where to go, would do a quick mental calculation, and come an approximate figure, which invariably will be more than what the normal fare would be. (By the way, some people interpret this as only a crude version of the sophisticated "surge pricing" that the mobile-app based cab services adopt.)

The autorickshaw drivers resort to this tactic because one, they think they can cash in on the high demand, and two, many passengers might not know what the ride to their destination might actually cost, and they might just agree to pay the asked-for fare, without knowing they are being charged more.

Photo credit: Whitefield Rising
Not to my surprise, the first autorickshaw driver I spoke to quoted a figure of ₹100, which I knew was around double of what the normal fare would be. I told him so. I also suggested that I would rather go by the meter, and pay him a tip of ₹10. He didn't agree to that. I asked a couple of other drivers there too, but none agreed to go by the meter. So I walked a little ahead.

May be about 100 meters down the road, I flagged a vacant autorickshaw that was passing by. I told the driver, "Infantry Road", and he promptly gestured me to get in. He didn't switch on the meter, as I thought he would. But he told me, "Give me ₹30."

I thought I heard him wrong. Probably he was saying I should pay ₹30 more than what the meter would show. But he hadn't put the meter on. I was confused. So, I asked him, "₹30?" He said, "Yes."

Now I was curious. "Why? Normally, it should be ₹40 to ₹50, by the meter, considering the distance, is it not?"

He replied, "That's fine."

He didn't look like a very conversational person, and I didn't prod him further.

At the destination, as I exited the autorickshaw, I gave him a currency of ₹50, said thank you, and was about to walk, when he told me to hang on, and I saw him taking his wallet out. He handed me the change of ₹20.

Now, it was my turn to say, "It's fine. Consider the excess as my tip!"

But then he insisted that I accept the change of ₹20, which meant the ride cost only ₹30. He put the wallet back in his pocket, and rode away with a smile, saying, "I had a good day today!"

(For the Facebook link to We Are The World Blogfest posts, click here.)

25 comments:

  1. Such drivers are hard to come by- they are exceptions to the rule that you are fleeced when you take a ride in auto rikshaw. Most abuse you in a filthy language. But there is a small difference between autos waiting in the stand and those on the run in the road.The latter generally accept a lower fare than the abnormally high rate asked for by former.

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    1. You are right, KP. I too prefer not to take autos that are parked in the stand. Instead I take the auto that is passing by.

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  2. Bangalore is better than Chennai in this regard. I lived there for a couple of years, not sure if the situation has changed much now. Here in Chennai, these guys would shamelessly charge Rs. 100 for 2-3 K.M. Needless to say, we travel mostly by cabs even if we have to wait for sometime for it to arrive.

    Destination Infinity

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    1. I have known that Chennai is quite bad when it comes to autos, Rajan. Yes, cabs are a better alternative.

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  3. Some people will take advantage when they can. It's always good to find those that don't.

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  4. The lesson is don't go near the autos that are waiting in the stand. Flag an auto that is running vacant in the street. Chennai auto drivers are the worst in the whole of India. Even if you agree to pay their asking price, they will ask for more when you reach the destination. (Pottu kudunga Sir.). Also the language you speak to them makes a difference. In Bangalore, you speak to the auto drivers in Kannada or any other language?

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    1. Bengaluru, Hindi and English work as good as Kannada. Actually, very few auto drivers expect you to talk to them in Kannada!!!

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  5. Having autorickshaws sounds so cool and I'm disappointed that there's nothing like that around here. Glad you found a driver who operates fairly. Extra fairly, in fact.

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    1. Yes, Oneil. Autorickshaw driver don't enjoy great reputation here. So, it was quite a pleasant surprise.

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  6. During the day I was thinking about your post. So you went on an official company assignment. You could have taken any type of transportation/vehicle since the company will be reimbursing you for your expenditure. But you were frugal with the Company funds and looked for the cheapest transportation. Nowadays, we cannot find responsible people like you in many companies.

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    1. Frankly, Rajan, I decided to travel on my own, since there was easy public transport available. I travelled by Metro one way. And for the return, auto was faster for that short distance compared to cab in the busy Bengaluru city centre traffic.
      Thank you, Rajan, for those kind words.

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  7. I have never heard of an autorickshaw before, living in Australia. But the attempts to rip customers off does not surprise me - it seems to be human nature to tend towards corruption if there isn't any law enforcement to prevent it. I wonder why this particular driver gave you such a cheap fare? That would've had me scratching my head all day. It is always refreshing to have an experience like that, shame that it is so unusual!

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    1. I earlier thought that autorickshaws are only in India. But later I read that these three-wheeler public transport vehicles are present in many other countries as well.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_rickshaw

      You are right, Hannah, that the general human tendency is to deceive, unless there is a moral conviction to be kind and right, or a fear of law.

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  8. Some of the rickshaw drivers can be quite sweet. I often think of how they are exposed to the pollution and the heat or the cold and that this must be making them grumpy. I don't like being overcharged and say so - and if they're really rude about it I don't go with them.

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    1. Yes, Kalpana, some auto drivers are very nice.

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  9. Wow! This is such a wonderful and interesting experience. Though he had a good day that day, but what about the next day? He could have taken the extra money, but he didnt. Havent come across such good rickshaw drivers.

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    1. This auto driver was a surprise to me as well, Shilpa.

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  10. Hi Pradeep - this reminds me somewhat of our 'pay it forward' posts that we've both done. We've got rickshaws in Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada - saw them on Thursday ... and I know they're in England. This chap sounds an ace of a find ... and that R20 I know will be put to good use by you in some other way.

    Lovely story - and yes ... both of you had very good days ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Yes, Hilary. Very much in line with the "pay it forward' experiences we have seen earlier.

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  11. I too had a similar experience last month while dropping my son off for his badminton Coaching classes in JP Nagar! After several days of commuting and paying an excess fare that I considered was the normal, one day there was this auto driver would not accept any excess fare that I offered over what his meter showed. I was very surprised when he charged me Rs 30 instead of the usual Rs60. It was the lowest that I've ever paid to any auto driver for the same distance but no matter how much I insisted he would not accept anything more than his fare. When I alighted, I wished him well and told him that he was a blessed soul. He smiled. It was such a rare experience for me to encounter such a nice auto driver for a change.
    Here is my ​ ​WATWB post for this month. ​

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    1. Thanks, a lot, Esha, for dropping by. Glad to see that you were also lucky to encounter a good auto driver.
      I shall check out your post.

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  12. Wow! that's nice. Nothing like an unexpected good gesture from a stranger to make your day.

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  13. so humane humans are there among auto-drivers also. In Kochi, mostly it will never happen. They extract the maximum juice from the passenger. Nice news,Pradeep.

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