Autos in Bangalore will stalk you.As you amble on the side of the road( feeling lucky to be getting some exercise), they will keep up with you. They'll block your view, they'll confine you, they'll give you claustrophobia and then when you finally give up and ask ," Forum chaloge kya?", auto-driver won't say a word and will turn away and accelerate at such a rate that would put Ferraris to shame. Apparently , a distance of less than 2 kms is beneath their dignity.
Sometimes, you may be lucky and an auto-wallah may stoop below his level and even consider traveling 0.75 kms. He'll say in a way which will leave you utterly obliged - "Chalo bees rupaiye de dena. " ( btw the minimum charge of the autos in Bangalore is Rs 12 for a distance of 2 kms). You'll try your luck - " 20 rupaiye kyun?" . He'll say in a matter of factly manner - " wahaan se khaali aana padta hai." Then you being a logic fan and all will say -" khaali bhi aaya to bhi total distance 1.5 kms hota hai. Minimum charge to 2 km ka hota hai na." Auto- wallah sensing his limited logical abilities and seeing that he's losing the argument takes a seemingly sentimental stand - " Kya saahab. Badi badi software companiyon mai kaam karte ho. Garib se kya choti si baat ko leke lad rahe ho!" In other words : " Either you give 20 bucks or you can take your ass somewhere else."
No wonder, for the excellent service they provide, auto-drivers in Bangalore consider themselves tip-worthy. Consider this: you have just availed a Rs 43 worth of service. You dutifully pay him 50 bucks and while you are expecting some change back, the esteemed service provider is ready to take-off. And when you ask for the change, this is what he says- " Saat rupaiye mai building banaoge kya bhai?" What a hardhitting question I must say! Hats off to you sir. You really deserve a tip.
In Delhi, you need to know your distances.As they say, it's the capital.You get down at New Delhi railway station and have to go to India Gate. So you ask for a ride. Capital is quite well-known for it's tourist friendliness and the auto-wallah is over-zealous to live up to that reputation. So he decides to make an announcement - " Bhaisaahab ko India Gate ghoomne jaana hai!!" And he goes on to describe how India Gate is almost at the other corner of Delhi and you are lucky to be going to India Gate because on your way you will receive a complete Delhi tour. So Rs 150 he is asking for is really like peanuts. But you know better. You ask 2 other auto-drivers for their best rates, and they say in exemplary unison -" Rs 150 only". But your well-wishers have pre-warned you - in Delhi bargaining at autos work much in the same way as it works in the Palika Bazaar. So you take a stand - Rs 75 and no more. After some negotiation final figure arrived is Rs 100. You revel in your accomplishment. Oh, btw in Delhi auto meters are used only to put up a show in front of the super-strict Delhi Traffic Police. Anyway, in about 10-15 minutes, after about 4-5 kms, at about 35-40 bucks on the meter you reach your destination. And when you express your shock , this is what you hear - "Stick to your word. Be a man."
Even the "Easy Cab" service which is supposed to be Delhi's answer to all these hassles refuse to be left behind. And only amazing alertness can get you from getting fleeced when the Taxi-Driver puts up the night charge(1.5 times) meter in broad daylight hoping you'll be too busy on phone or too rich or mostly too naive to notice .
The above are real experiences I have had in Bangalore and Delhi. But wasn't Mumbai supposed to be the mecca of discipline,professionalism and honesty.It took me some time to realize that all three start and end the moment taxi driver puts down his meter which he will do even before you can blink your eyelid. Oh, this is too common to even deserve a mention - this is when I gave a 500 rupee note to the taxi guy for the payment of Rs 30 toll and he gave me back 70 bucks. And when I asked him about the other 400 bucks, he said with a childlike-innocence - what 500 bucks? I just had to threaten him a little before he confessed, not to his failed crime but his poor vision/memory. Then there was this time when the taxi meter reading from airport to my house defied all normal logic. And in my utter disgust I just skipped the haggling part and warned the taxi guy that I had been living in the area for last two years and I knew the people around pretty well. It would just take a call before he would be badly beaten up by a mob. He could even get lynched if he was unlucky. Yes, I really said that. This was enough to scare the guy into taking the right fare. Or this time only few days back when meter reading seemed ok, but the card he was using used a multiplier of 20 instead of 14 ( hence a meter fare of 400 instead of 275). And this time- it was the payback time. So I made it very clear to the taxi driver - " Today is your unlucky day. The correct meter fare is 275, but I'll pay you only 200 and you can do nothing about it. Either you accept that or you can come to the police station with me."
And I thoroughly and unashamedly enjoyed that part. And I will look forward to every opportunity to do so again and again and again and AGAIN.
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