Auto rickshaws in Mumbai have various nick-names (mostly given out of spite, not love). Cockroaches, I think is quite suitable. They dive into any space and squeeze their way around. Yet they clearly the most convenient way to get around for people. Except, during monsoons and when they go on strike and when they refuse to take you where you want to go AND when they use faulty meters to rob you of your hard-earned money.
Other than that, very convenient. Especially for couples who find it (surprisingly) a convenient place to make out, even though they are providing X-rated entertainment to those rickshaw-walas. Ideally it should be barter – a ride to the couples in exchange for the entertainment rickshaw guys catch in their ever present 5 rear-view mirrors. Some ‘view’ indeed!
Sometimes it’s the other way round and the customer is forcefully entertained with loud, obnoxious music from the Nadeem-Shravan era. Or with the endless ‘friendly banter’ from the rickshaw wala about Mumbai, politics, mehengai etc. Once a guy asked my friend if she was married and then showed keen disappointment and worry at her single status.
All of us crib about these three-wheelers and I too remember the endless (and pointless) fights with them every morning and evening to and fro from office. Why oh why do they have to be so difficult and mean? Once I saw an uncle literally grab the rod on it and run with the rickshaw in order to convince the driver to go where he wanted to go. My dad had to once just tell the driver “Jahan tu ja raha hai, vahin le ja!”
They would never agree that the meter was rigged and there is no way for us to check either. So it is your word against mine. Every time I lost one of those arguments it used to hurt my ego. ‘Kya dus rupaye ke liye itna jhagda karte ho madam…’ To me it wasn’t about the money, but it was just unethical! But I guess some dadagiri we all have to give in to. And if that wasn’t enough, the strikes are their latest tools to show mass-dadagiri. And I thought I’d seen the worst.
So here in Bangalore, the autos are green n yellow and look almost new all the time, which is where the goodness ends. Here, most of them don’t run by the meter. It’s like you have seal a deal every time before you get into one. They will quote and most of the times your bargaining power is minimal. The offers that are made available are like:
1. Rs.10 over the meter charge
2. Rs.20 over the meter charge
3. Pre-decided rates quoted by them – ranging from Rs.100 to 250.
4. One and a half times the meter charge (if it’s later than 9:30pm)
5. Monsoon will bring its own rate-card
Yes, there was no typo there, 9:30 it is. That’s when the ‘late night’ rate starts here in Bengaluru. But here’s the catch, the reason why I have given in to them, they don’t lie. They don’t want to cheat you. They quote, you decide whether you can pay up and only then get in. It’s an oral contract right there BEFORE you begin journey. (My hubby insists I don’t use the word ‘oral’ – its indecent. Ok, verbal.)
If you bargain, they will make a ‘bechara’ face and just say in docile tone – give 10 rupees madam or khaali jayega vapas madam or itna late ho gaya madam…etc etc. Suddenly, you are thinking ‘10 rupees is not much da’. Yes, I will not deny that I have fought for 2 rupees also once in Mumbai, but the point is these buggers are smart and are definitely making more money than their counter-parts in Mumbai.
The minimum fare here is Rs.20 by the way. (Yes, you are blessed Mumbai) and cost comes to around 11Rs pr additional km. (No I don’t have to carry a measuring tape, you can check the kilometers you travel on their digital meters). Having said all of that, there are some here who also run according to meter, and I have only one thing to say to them. Satyamev Jayate. Jai Hind.
Embarrassing P.S.: I do miss the occasional conversation with the fellow. Here they are either listening to music on their mobile or talking to someone on hands-free. Once my desperate self actually thought he was talking to me and hopefully said “Haan? Kuch kaha?” and he said, “Phone pe hai madam”.
I’m sure all of you guys reading this have some rickshaw stories of your own to share. Come on tell, I’m all ears!
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