By Sameena Kenaz

“Bhaiyya! Nampally chaltey kya?”
“Hau Saab. Sattar rupaye!”
“Kyu? Meter nahi chalra kya?”
“Chalra Saab!  Par waha pe traffic rehti, petrol ka karcha…”

“Bhaiyya Nampally bole, Begumpet nahi, sahi sunne aap?!”

meter down

meter down

This was an argument that took place between an auto-rickshaw driver and a potential passenger, on a day when the poor man probably had the time and patience to stand in the sun and discuss the auto-driver’s arrogances. There are many that deal with such atrocious demands everyday owing to the fact that it is one of the most common modes of transport in our city. But there is very little we can do, because most people have no time and so, they give in. The “for hire” sign on the digital meters will taunt you all the way on your journey while you glare right back at it.

After the tiresome bargaining before getting in the rickshaw, when you finally get down at your destination the auto-rickshaw driver will quote a new price saying, “madam/sir, you brought me a long way from where you said you wanted to be dropped.” The process of re-bargaining and negotiations starts again, until you either give in or he ends up taking what you give him along with some under-the-breath growling about being paid less.

There was a time when one could just get into an auto and it would take you wherever you asked, but those days are just part of nostalgia. Today, you will only reach your destination if the auto-rickshaw driver feels like driving in that direction. If not, you will stay stranded for hours’ negotiating with every one of them that passes by; and there will be many! You will agree to their terms in the end, out of exasperation. But hey! At least you tried.

Probably the only person who would be charged as per meter or even get a free ride would be Amitabh Bachchan. Being a celebrity of that stature has its advantages.Probably the only person who would be charged as per meter or even get a free ride would be Amitabh Bachchan. Being a celebrity of that stature has its advantages. But us mango people, we have to bear the brunt. There are also times when the auto-rickshaw driver looks a lot more posh than you, and you wonder if that’s where all extra pay is accommodated. Sometimes you may find a Shahrukh look-alike driving you and that might give you some solace. At least you’re going to be seen with a celebrity look-alike if not the real one which makes you feel like your money is being spent well.

Every year there is a great hullabaloo and the rates are increased, perhaps just for the mental satisfaction of the auto-rickshaw driver’s, so that they feel like they are keeping pace with the hard, expensive times.

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