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.
• • •


jj said...

I second you. The autowallahs in B'lore are the most ruthless people I've ever come across. They come up with the silliest reasons to charge extra. The other day, one fellow asked for extra Rs.20 just coz we were stuck in a traffic jam.
And they have the perennial excuse of petrol prices rising!

My friend taught me this funda and it works most of the time for me. 'Check if he has a digimeter and if he's an old muslim guy' ... They are the least troublesome though there aren't many of them around.

sandeep said...

sad reality of bangalore. i hate them so much that i prefer walking a couple of kms!

btw ... u cud've refused to pay him anything if he doesnt drop u home.

Pooja said...

Hating on autowallas, now you have truly arrived in Bangalore. Welcome! The first few months are the hardest, all the rage directed the the autowallas and the people who have done nothing and thus encouraged this kind of rampant bullying. There have way to many times I have come close to macing them in the face!

You are right about apathy, most people don't bat an eyelid and agree to the autowallas outrageous demands. If you stop agreeing to their demands they will at some point stop acting like such jackasses!

Anonymous said...

Lol. Welcome to the World.
Atleast you're working. Think about us pinched students...

Don't start arguing when they ask for double. Say nothing, wait till he drops you wherever you are supposed to be dropped, and just throw the previously agreed amount at his face.

I've asked the same question my seasoned Bangalorean friends many a time. Its cus of the cops. They know the cops ain't goin to do anything to them.

And yeah, jj's advice is right on spot...

mathew said...

oh i so agree with you...when i was in kerala..i thought the cochin autowallahs are the worst and then the ones from tvm...but after having spend decent time in Blore..i realised they were quite the angels!!

Jade said...

jj: Hmm.. Check his driver's licence before getting in to see if he's Muslim. Cool, will do. ;)

Sandeep: Yeah, me too mostly. But Heaven knows what he would have done to me if I'd refused to pay him.

Poo: I guess so. Or make alternative modes of transport easily available so that they have competition. Right now they know we have no other option.

Anon: Exactly my point. The cops will just take the bribes and let them go.

Mathew: Haha! I used to think the same about Delhi. But now they seem like angels indeed! :)

Subbu said...

You bangloreans are better off. Its just meter +10 or 1 and half times the meter for you people. The Autos in Chennai don't believe in meter. They believe in the power of bargain.

Suman said...

Oh Yes..I too hate the autowallas so much, I try my best to avoid them..I have walked, taken an inconvenient bus, asked someone to drop me to avoid getting into an auto..And they have the gall to slow down/honk to induce you into getting into one when you are walking all by yourself!!

Gopi Krishna said...

Great post Jade.

Even I use the word tameez when talking to autowallahs and some over-enthusiastic security guards. And yeah Chennai autowallahs are much much worse than Bangalore autowallahs. No question of them coming on meter rate. I have till-date, never paid anything less than a 100 rupees to an auto guy in Chennai.

Anonymous said...

chanced onto you thru desipundit

i agree ...

two things that were the factors that I considered while moving out of Bangalore were Autowallahs and Traffic ...

and everytime i go back with otherwise sweet memories .. i am dragged into reality by my inevitable encounters with both of them ..

i agree with JJ ... an old musim guy are typically the sweetest ... i also used to make sure that i got down at a point so that this guy did not have the opportunity to shortchange me ... well it is like striking a balance between time of day and distance from my place ... but mostly, and this works best if I have to travel long ... I work out a deal ... without meters ... but i would not recommend this ... since this causes a lot of lost autos and probably they would be more rude to a girl ..


serendipity said...

I think Bangalore autowallahs are gods when you compare them with the chennai auto wallahs !!!

Ambuj Saxena said...

I have had better experience with them, probably because I am a guy. But there is one thing I can swear by: They will try to defraud you if you don't know the route. Almost 40~50% of the times they have either tried to take a longer route or at least sense if I know the right route. Once my dad (who hasn't lived in Bangalore) had to travel alone to a place I have been to many times (and know it costs Rs 70/- in auto). He ended up paying about Rs 110/-.

If I were in your situation, I would have refused to pay anything. Once an autowallah turned the wrong direction with no turn-arounds nearby before I could force him to stop. I just told him the amount I know it costs for that destination (honestly) and asked if he will agree. He didn't. So I just stepped out and walked away. I didn't even say that I won't pay him because it would have given him an opportunity to haggle back. Dunno if this would have worked for you.

Sid said...

For my first year in Bangalore this used to be my everyday story. I used to stay in a god-forsaken (at the time) place and always the sole argument was that he wouldn't get a ride back. One of the prime reasons why I got a bike was the autowallahs.

Since moving to a much nicer locality, I have stopped using my bike altogether and started depending on the autos or the buses. I agree that some of them are definitely of the sly lot but of late I am starting to see improvements. This could also be influenced by a recent trip to Chennai where I dunno how many times I got ripped off :)

But have to say that Mumbai autowallahs are some of the best. Most of the time, I get in and sit down and say I want to go here. He just swings the meter and off we go. Such a nice experience!

Tanuj Lakhina said...

Hey,Came here through Desipundit.

I reside in Delhi and the problem you mentioned is exactly like what we face in Delhi. I don't know how they come up with an amount to quote and its double/triple the amount it should be.

Their meter is never working and then they complain about high rental charges they have to pay to their owners.

Along with it, "there would be a lot of traffic in that area so pay me extra" crap!

What's worse? These same autowallah's made a huge hue and cry about these meters when they were to be installed. What's the point of making a whole issue of it when they're not even going to use it!

I would also like to mention here that I've seen Mumbai autowallah's ply by meter even if its a short distance of a kilometer(something Delhi auto's don't do) and not crib about it. Except in the evening when even they say no to avoid the traffic as well!

God save us from pathetic public transport! *sighs*

Anonymous said...

Bangalore has lots of new Autos drivers and they are the saving grace of the city. I agree. Go for digimeter and old Muslim drivers. They are the best.

Farcenal said...

Perfect anecdote to sum up the cycle of futility and helplessness that is India.

We want justice and reason yet we are powerless in the face of trade unions, the ignorant and bureaucracy. What can we Bangaloreans do? It's like the system is rigged to milk the affluent. After all, what is an extra 20 rupees to us? Hai na?

I have realised that you cannot fight India. It is set in its ways. You simply have to make the best of it. My attitude may be defeatist but I've spent too long being angry at the system.

Maybe I'm the kind of guy who keeps these extortionists in business.

GajabKhopdi said...

I too had a lot of frustrating encounters with the Bangalore Autowallas during my two month stay in the city...the worst being the case where I actually got robbed by one of them. Have penned down my experience at

In another instance an autowalla asked for double the money for the slliest reason i hav ever heard - "Sir Traffic hai!"
WTF!! Road pe trafic nahi hoga to aur kya hoga??

R said...

Just like our beloved Delhi auto guys.

I was in B'lore three weeks ago. I went to the world's best bookstore, had incredible food in Indra Nagar, among some very fun things in such areas.

Jean said...

Some autowallahs aren't even interested in carrying passengers. I would have thought they need the money. Once I was with my two-year old, the fellows knew that I would need an auto and started quoting random prices. I bowed to him and said, "Bhaiyya, I will get buses from here, don't worry." And he didn't budge. And when I went to wait for the bus, a real nice person came along driving an auto (hate to classify him as an ordinary "autowallah"), started his meter and took me home. He did not ask me for a rupee more than the fare.
There are good ones too, but very rare to find!

Magic Quill said...

Hey interesting read... incidentally had written something similar - chk this out

WomanInLove said...

My sentiments! I wrote a post on the same lines a month back or so..they r worst specimen of humans