Friday, July 24, 2009

My experience with auto

I came across the following mail making rounds and I could not help share my latest bitter experience with auto rickshaw.

... shares his inspirational
encounter with a rickshaw driver in Mumbai: Last Sunday, my wife, kid, and I had to travel to Andheri from Bandra. When I waved at a passing auto
rickshaw, little did I expect that this ride would be
any different. As we set off, my eyes fell on a few
magazines(kept in an aircraft style pouch) behind the
driver's back rest. I looked in front and there
was a small TV. The driver had put on the Doordarshan
channel. My wife and I looked at each other with disbelief and
amusement. In front of me was a small first-aid box with
cotton, dettol and some medicines. This was enough for me to
realise that I was in a special vehicle. Then I looked
round again, and discovered more - there was a radio, fire
extinguisher, wall clock, calendar, and pictures and symbols
of all faiths - from Islam and Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. There were also pictures
of the heroes of 26/11- Kamte, Salaskar, Karkare
and Unnikrishnan. I realised that not only my vehicle,
but also my driver was special.

I started chatting with him and the initial sense of ridicule and disbelief gradually diminished. I gathered that
he had been driving an auto rickshaw for the past 8-9 years;
he had lost his job when his employer's plastic
company was shut down. He had two school-going
children, and he drove from 8 in the morning till 10
at night. No break unless he was
We realised that we had come across a man who
represents Mumbai * the spirit of work, the spirit of
travel and the spirit of excelling in life. I asked
him whether he does anything else as I figured that he
did not have too much spare time. He said that he goes
to an old age home for women in Andheri once a week or
whenever he has some extra income, where he donates
tooth brushes, toothpastes, soap, hair oil, and
other items of daily use. He pointed out to a painted
message below the meter that read: "25 per cent
discount on metered fare for the handicapped. Free
rides for blind passengers up to Rs. 50.

My wife and I were struck with awe. The man was a HERO! A
hero who deserves all our respect. Our journey came to an
end; 45 minutes of a lesson in humility, selflessness, and
of a hero-worshipping Mumbai, my temporary home. We
disembarked, and all I could do was to pay him a tip that
would hardly cover a free ride for a blind man.

I personally agree that this guy is a hero. But would I say the same about the auto wala whose auto I hired the last day. Read on.

Now let me take you for a reality check by sharing my latest experience with an auto wala last day. From the moment I got inside the auto I noticed that the fare meter is running like crazy. It is recording a new unit every few meters( instead of 10 meters).
I realized that the rate at its going, I would be soon bankrupt. It already made Rs. 70 from **** station to ****** @ Rs. 7 /km while the earlier fare was ~ Rs. 50 with Rs. 8 /km. Something fishy going on ?
Yes the auto walas have tweaked their meters to perfection.
This is how they retaliated to the decrease in fare after the government ignored their threats.

So getting to my story. I realized if the fare gets above 10.00 in the meter hell knows how much he will charge.
So I got down as soon it was 9.00 in the meter.
The auto wala was very reluctant to stop.
On asking him how much is the fare, he replied it is Rs. 95 (this is the amount I paid on going from my place to **** station which was much longer distance.) So I asked for the fare chart.
He said he doesn't have any so I should wait till one auto passes and he could corroborate his claim. I have seen this before. They try to join forces to take on the passenger (happened to me before). I would not let that happen. So I said it is his fault and I would pay Rs. 7 /km. He said NO , it is Rs. 8 /km. I said I know the fare pretty well, I have just been to the station one way.
Cornered, the guy says if I want to pay as I wished, I have to pay the exact amount. He would not provide any change. If I pay Rs. 100 he will not pay back.
So I had to buy some papaya to get change which I used to ward that devil off my back.

Do we sympathesize with these guys. Do you need to be immoral and deceitful to make a living. How bad is their situation anyways?
I personally talked to an auto wala about this issue and their general attitude. He explained that they are in a rush to get ~ Rs. 400 before the evening. After that everything is extra. Assuming they have to pay some amount as rent for their auto, it hardly justifies the nuisance passengers have to face.

In cities with poor public transport(viz. Pune) they are on rampage. I do not know the solution to this yet but having my own vehicle would be a start.

1 comment:

siddhobokul said...

I agree with you totally. The Pune auto wallas are a nuisance. Every time I need to take an auto, each and every time I have had a bad argument with them regarding the fare. Previously they refused to go by the meter; nowadays as you say, they have indeed tampered the meter. Otherwise how do you explain that previously we paid around Rs. 60-70 for a ride till Pune station and now we end up paying Rs. 95 for the same trip ? How can the meter reading be so different?

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