Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Bengaluru Autowallah

My current favourite people to hate - Bangalore's autowallahs. Gosh, I've never seen such conscience-less people! You need do nothing more than flag one down for them to try and swindle you. I am actually surprised when one of them to go by meter - which doesn't happen very often, let me assure you.

The other day, I was coming back from Forum after dinner with Blue and Andy. It was around ten in the night. I had to take an auto, because buses would have dropped me to the main road, and the gali leading to my house wouldn't have been very safe at that time of the night.

The autowallah first quoted seventy rupees, but after some haggling by the Kannada-speaking Andy, he finally agreed to go by meter. Since it was after ten, the going rate was one and a half times the meter rate in any case. Within five minutes of getting into the auto, I knew I would have to watch out, because he tried to go by a roundabout route rather than a straight one. I told him the way, and then settled back, with the speakers blaring out Emosanal Attyachar at full volume.

Just before he entered my colony, he started cribbing - it's so inside, so far away, you'll have to pay me double. WTF! I told him - I'd told you everything before getting in, exactly where the place is, and anyway, there is a main road about two minutes away from my house on the other side. No no, he kept saying. Pay double or utaar denge.

Now, this was when I started getting really angry. How dare he threaten that he would drop me off on the way rather than take me to my house? Not only that, the street that we were in was very ill-lit and unsafe. It's a thriving market till about nine, but shuts down and becomes completely deserted soon after. I told him - no way, you have to drop me at my house, and I'm definitely not paying you anything more than one and a half.

About five minutes of this back and forth exchange, and he suddenly stopped the auto and told me to get off. I don't why I got off, but I did. Maybe because I was SO pissed by this time. I wanted to yell at him and use all the swear words I've ever learnt, but unfortunately I didn't know any Kannada ones. Instead, from God knows where, I got some random Hindi words that were definitely NOT swear words. I don't think I've ever even used the word tameez before in my entire life. And I only have a hazy idea what it means.

Either way, I suddenly started suspecting that the guy was drunk. He'd been singing along to the song in the auto, and his head seemed to be swaying a little bit. So I decided that it would be easier to just walk off. But I was so fucking angry I couldn't stop muttering swear words (English ones, and much too late) under my breath. And to top it all, I ended up paying him almost double because I didn't have change! He was belligerent and rude till the last.

I was pretty scared of walking home alone. So I called up Blue and spoke to him for fifteen minutes, till I reached home. I didn't face any trouble, not even from the college students standing around in packs everywhere. Ironically enough, I had more trouble from the autowallah than the random guys on the street.

When I got home and related the story to my flatmate, she said - why didn't you take down the guy's registration number? It's there on the back of his seat. I hadn't known this of course, but I don't think I would have done it anyway, given my suspicions that he was drunk.

Somebody please tell me this - why are Bangaloreans tolerating this? Why do they pay up every time an auto guy asks for 'meter plus ten' or 'meter plus twenty'? Or is it just me that they ask? They see that I'm not a localite and decide to milk me for more, is that it?

Anyway, I don't know what I would have done even if it had been broad daylight. Would I have threatened to take him to the police station? No way! Too much trouble, and which sane person in this country would willingly go to the police station and waste so much time and energy, when we know perfectly well that the guy is just going to pay a bribe and leave the place within half an hour?

I guess in the end we only have ourselves to blame, not these guys. They take advantage of our apathy.
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