Friday, August 18, 2006

Auto Rickshaw Etiquette

"Bhaiyya, Lingarajpuram?"

Unfortunately, this above line has become part and parcel of my daily life. I cannot go into the depths of misfortune. I could try, but it would barely be conveyed by a few hundred words. Every day after work I attempt to go back home in this very Indian contraption. With very little success.

For the record, auto rickshaw drivers are bound by law to take a person anywhere they wish to without question. Can you hear me sighing, loudly?

Every evening, in my find-a-rickshaw adventure, I wave my hands frantically at every three-wheeled thing I see on the road. Some are occupied by humans, some are occupied by.. um.. things. The rest are vacant. Of these, some don't look at the side of the road for waving hands and drive on looking straight ahead. Talk about focus.
Are they just ignoring me? Is it me? What is wrong with me? Why don't they stop? Sniff..

Of those that do see my airborne hands, some are gracious enough to stop. Oh I must correct myself. He slows down, and in that slow motion he turns his head towards me. That is my cue to quickly spurt out the desired destination.
"Bhaiyya, Lingarajpuram?", I ask in all innocence. More often than not, he barely requires thought for this one. He slowly turns his look back to the road, and drives on without saying a word. Could you atleast grunt out your unwillingness to take me home? Some are audacious enough to raise the gear and move on even faster, but even then, they will not say a word. Not one.

Lets move on to the category that's willing to atleast give Lingarajpuram a thought. I'd like to mention here that Lingarajpuram isn't that far away from civilisation. Its about 7 kms away from MG road. Not near, but not far enough to warrant such reactions. These people slow down, the expressions on their faces get distorted, and that distortion tells me there is hope.

"Hunnred rupees lagega" [..prefixed with a madam in rare cases]
"Won ann haff lagega"

Exact fare = Rs 55
Fare that inevitably shows up on the rigged autos of the city = Rs 65 - 75
Won ann haff = Rs 65 * 1.5 = Rs 97.50
Hunnred rupees = Rs 100
While the clear winner is Mr.Exact Fare, that almost always never happens. Mr.Rigged Fare is the guy who's ready to give you a ride home, only because he also lives in around the same area. Again, someone ready to go by his meter, however rigged, at 8 in the night, is as rare as a snowman in Bangalore. Which leaves us to a choice between Monsieur Won Ann Haff and Mister Hunnred. Tough call.

Well, having made my choice, let me tell you about the next hurdle in the journey, or rather at the end of the journey. The Fight. But of course. (Rigged fare)x1.5 was not exactly what I bargained for, right? So I calculate Exact Fare, multiply one and a half times, and propose to him that I must pay exactly that much.

ME: "Bhaiyya, kya bhaiyya, main har din office se aati hun, itna hi aata hai.. Yeh aapka kaisa meter hai?"
[What is this, I come everyday from office, it comes to only this much. What kind of a meter do you have?"]

HIM: "Nahi madam, kya karein, route lamba padta hai"
[No madam, what can I do, the route is long]
Yeah, the route gets longer by the day.

"Madam, yeh itna door hai, waapas akela jaana padta hai"
[This place is so far, I have to go back all the way without any customers]
Oh, and this justifies your tampering with the meter? Seems like raising the fare to 7 8.5 rupees a kilometer and charging me one and a half times the amount wasn't enough now was it, dude???

But today. Today was different. Today I walked two kms to the prepaid stand. To be fair I did ask about 50 autos my special question. But then I gave up. Walked till there, where a policeman (bless him) caught hold of an auto and made him take me home.

Result? No multiplications and additions to the meter amount. Fare: Forty one rupees.

I won. Today I won, all ye khakhi-adorned deciders of my fate each night.
Ah, but just as well. In spite of all the intricacies involved, you've
(a) Brought me home safe each night, and
(b) Given me something to write about.