- Recently, TOI conducted a series of workshops in our city and Photography was one among them. I immediately grabbed the opportunity to learn the tips and tricks of photography. The learnings and the experience of this workshop deserves a separate post, but this one is about the auto drivers, whose services I used to go back and forth the workshop venue.
- Some 50 meters away from our apartment complex, at the end of the road, there is this auto stand where 7-10 autos are parked at all hours of the day. During the day time, you will find them sitting in one auto and chatting away to glory. During the evenings you would see them huddled together around a small fire.
- You ask them, “Bhaiya, Tonk Road chaloge?” (Will you go to Tonk Road?) and the Act 1 of the drama begins. Half of them would turn away on hearing the destination, as if you are asking them to drop you on the moon. And this reaction is when your destination is in the centre of the city, which is a place buzzing with people and activities from morning to night and you are asking them to take you there at 10 am and not 10 pm!! The remaining 3-4 would push each other to take the “savari”. Listening to them say , “Tu iss savari ko leja” (You take this passenger) fills you with disgust.
- Reluctantly, somebody would agree and then Act 2 of the drama begins. You ask, “Kitna loge” (How much will you take?) And he says an amount which is twice the regular fare. You argue that you go daily to that place (even if it is the 2nd day of commuting to that place) and the fare is Rs 80. They turn back and go back to their conference room aka auto and continue with their agenda of the ‘meeting’. You leave the place and start walking on the main road and a few minutes later, an auto stops, you discuss your destination and the fare and surprisingly, these auto drivers always ask for a Rs 10 or 20 more than the ‘actual’ fare and agree to your ‘Rs 80’ immediately.
- Why you have to haggle about the fare is because these autos never go by meter, though they would start it as soon as you sit inside one. Their point is that the meter rate card is an old one and the price of diesel has increased. I wonder, if some action can be taken against them for not going by the meter!
- How does one arrive on the agreeable fare when the autos never go by meter and you are travelling by an auto after years! On the first day, you ‘interact’ ie do a market survey with 5-6 autos drivers and ask them the fare for your destination and then refuse all of them, one by one. After this interaction, you take the average of all the fares and arrive at an amount which could be the ‘right’ amount. You stop the next passing by auto and tell him what you will pay and voila! he agrees on the fare!
- The auto drivers in Jaipur city have to wear a blue shirt. Most of them never wear it before the start of the journey. Somewhere down the road they realise that the traffic cop would be visible, so they wear it over the clothes they are wearing and in turn either slowing down the vehicle or manoeuvring the vehicle precariously with one hand and using the other one to wear the blue shirt.
- Some of them drive at a break-neck speed, irrespective of the road. The traffic, the potholes, the speed-breakers just don’t mean anything to them. On a busy road, they will manoeuvre the auto so dangerously and sharply that you keep swaying to and fro on the seat. The jump over the potholes and speed-breakers ensure that all the contents of your stomach churn on their own. I wish there was some way of telling the muscularis externa in the stomach to take some rest and not to churn the food as the auto driver is helping to do just the same!
- Kumar Sanu would be proud of himself and would smile smugly to know that ALL the auto drivers (who have music systems in their autos) love him dearly! After ages I heard so many popular songs of Kumar Sanu with jhankar beats.
- Since these autos never go by the meter and the fare that you agree upon is a round figure and that too in denomination of 10, still these guys never have change. The fare is Rs 80, you give Rs 100, and Act 3 of the drama begins… they put their hand in that pocket which has no money and with a sorry face, they say, “Sorry madam, change nahin hai”. Now, where you stop is a corner of a traffic junction, and the only shop that you see is a pan shop which is also a few meters away. You try to get the change from the paanwala and he refuses without even looking from whatever he is doing. Mind you, it is your responsibility to get the change, not the Auto driver’s! And since you can’t be asking for the change from any passer-by (who will definitely refuse too), you part with your 100 rupee note without getting the change! A six day workshop and traveling exactly a dozen times in the auto, my travelling expenses were more than the workshop fee!
How has been your experience with the Auto-wallahs in your city??
Image Courtesy : Google Images