Sunday, June 15, 2008

meter mele hatthu roopayi

Before I embark on my anecdotes about my encounters with the autowallahs, I must say Bangalore's autodrivers are the best mannered in the country. I refuse to listen to any statement to the contrary. However, I must also say that most of my anecdotes are going to sound like I don't like them at all. When in doubt refer to the opening lines above. They are the best mannered of them all.

Right anyway...

Here we go..

BAW (Bangalore autowallah)s will take you from place A to place B if and only if they are assured of a client at place B. They will then of course insist that mr client at place B take them to a place C if and only if they are assured of a client at place C... and so they go on ad infinatum. They however are very understanding of the layman's lack of astrological skills and are willing to take said layman to any place as long as there's a reasonable chance that BAW will get a "sawaari". But there's a catch.

Let me explain
Every morning dozens of Bangaloreans go towards the city with a view to working, earning a living etc etc. The traffic flow is towards the city in the morning; not away from it. This is an extremely important concept to the BAWs.
Therefore let's say BAW takes you to the city and is expecting a client in the middle of the city- he's not going to get one. Why ? Because everyone who is in the city is where they want to be. No one wants to come out of it. Poor BAW is left hanging around in the middle of the city waiting for the rare lunatic who wants to come out; maybe rare lunatic got fired, perhaps he quit, maybe he left his pain medication at home and needs them really badly. If BAW waits long enough he will find someone. But poor BAW thinks "damn, if only I were outside the city, there would be so many sawaaris coming towards the city". And to avoid all this confusion he'll tell you in the morning, when you ask him to take you to the city, that he won't get anyone back from there. He'll tell you to that he'll be willing to take you to another residential locality (where presumably another bunch of people will be waiting to get to the city, and he'll find some goon there who'll take him to yet another residential locality).

Exactly the reverse happens in the evening. Everyone is coming back from the city. No one wants to go back into the concrete jungle. BAW is back in action insisting that you only take him to places where ppl want to come back from the city; which you will gladly do if only he will take you outside the city in the first place. No can do says our BAW.

He's a master of putting u in catch 22.

That being said, the best times to catch autos are mid morning and mid evening- where there's a nice equilibrium between traffic towards the city and away from the city... traffic traffic everywhere, autos going everywhere, but you forever in jam, so essentially you going nowhere.

But... the way to get around this refusal is to agree to pay him 10 bucks above the meter "meter mele hatthu roopayi kodi". In sheer desperation most people agree. And that's how people get to the city every morning. And that's how people get back from the city in the evening. In case you are saying to yourself " umm, this can't be true, coz i've seen autos in the city in the morning, and i've seen autos outside the city in the evening".

My question to you is have you seen how battered and tattered 10 rs notes are ? More than any other kind of note ? It is all due to the meter mele hatthu roopayi conspiracy. Fortunately, this particular request never suffers from inflation. Despite increasing fuel prices and lpg and increasing income and fancier flyovers, and people standing in front of fab india with 3 bags full of ridiculously expensive cotton clothes telling the BAW that she will not give 1 paisa above meter, it will always be hatthu roopayi. Coz BAW is forever considerate.

One fellow once asked me when I was haggling with him at the top of my voice.. "madam, its 10 rs, do you need it more or do i need it more". I wanted to tell him "it's the principle of the thing". But sometimes, its also a question of who needs it more. I needed the ride more than he did. He needed 10 rs more than I do. It's a good deal at the end of the day.

There was another time when I agreed to pay the extra 10 rs, but kept on a tirade of how ridiculous the whole thing is, including asking him to give me a time table of *where and all* he'll be willing to take me at different times of the day, so that I can plan my day accordingly, and how could he expect to always want people to be willing to jump in his auto and go where he wants to go, whereas actually he is expected to take his clients where they want to go, and how they have this one excuse called "sawaari sigalla" to ruin all your travel plans and how you cannot be expected to know every single sawaari's whim or bend to their whim even if you did know it ya-dah ya-dah ya-dah

So yes... I went on and on in a pretty bad broken kannada with high funda words like "nyaaya" and "neethi" and "jawaabdaari". And when finally we arrived at my destination he waived off the 10 rs saying "beda madam. Thumba majaa banthu nimhathra maathaadi".

Into every life a little rain must pour :)