About Me

Monday, October 01, 2007

Autodrivers of Bangalore - Second half (or) The Journey Not-completed

For the first half of the journey, kindly refer to the blog below this one

What amuses me most is the versatility with which the average Bangalore autodriver has arrived at this juncture – from being a mere con-artist to one who can nudge bigwigs out of the Interpol’s red corner list; from being fluent only in one language – abusive, to being able to swear in 6 – he has come a long path. And if he throws one quick glance around and looks at the path… he’ll realize it’s the wrong side of a one-way road.

I will take you, my dear reader, on a ride with one of these autos. The ride itself may be uneventful, but there is plenty to cover before and after it. See if you can get some learning out of this and apply it in Bangalore or in your own city if there is a fit.

The pain in the backseat starts seconds before you get into the auto. A potential traveler, with hope in eye and good coffee and sweet wife waiting at home, approaching an auto driver will get the following treatment –

Let’s assume the pedestrian can speak Bangalore’s version of Kannada

Passenger: “Bartheera!” (Translation – “Comingaaa!”)
Auto Driver: “Yellige!” (Translation – “Where to?”)
Passenger: “Koramangala” (Translation – “Koramangala”)
Auto Driver: “Tch!” (Translation – “Tch!”)

Other travelers, heading out in any of the other three directions, will meet the same fate. You conclude that that auto drivers have got into market research - using cluster analysis to figure out where citizens would like to travel most - and have quit their natural-born instincts of transporting people around.

Let’s assume that Shukra and Shani in the potential passenger’s zodiac for the week are in the right position. They aren’t upto any of their usual tricks and are rather co-operative. This translates to the potential passenger finding an autodriver who is willing to transport him to the chosen destination. Now, he needs to face the next level of the game – the “Put something on the meter and give no!” syndrome. Here’s how it works…

No driver in his normal senses is willing to go by the meter. There always is a need to ask the traveler to “put something on the meter” and pay them. Being a veteran at receiving such requests from those tough souls, I suggested to one of them, a banana for the putting. The humor not only failed to register but was greeted with the look of a lion being told it had to go on the Atkins’ diet.

Convince the autodriver that you need to be taken for a ride and he might agree, but only on the outside. Deep inside, he has worked out the figurative meaning of “being taken for ride” and will scheme and plot like he’s the white-sari protagonist in a Ramsay movie. At that most crucial V junction in the road ahead, while leading you to believe that the Indian team did win the T20 and that he is indeed going to take the right of the fork as you wanted, he will take a cruel left. Your yelling at him for taking the wrong route will bring out the Socrates in him, convincing you with skewed logic that this route is indeed the shorter one and that all roads lead to the same destination (hence the adage – “All roads lead to roam”).

Of late, I have in my experiments with autorickshaws (read not much between the lines… the experiments are straight and have the SPCA’s approval), figured out that the auto’s wires snap when there are pretty women on the road or when a juicy junction in a busy part of the city is looming large. “Wire cut”, he will proclaim with gusto and a smile, as though that was your most anticipated event for the year since your great aunt infected you with common cold in mid-summer mango season. He will then go onto charge the full amount as shown by the faulty meter, along with whatever you can put on it. Just when you are out of sight, the meter in a pang of guilt will fix itself up and be ready for the hot chick from the north-east who is showing her legs a.k.a Yana Gupta in babuji zara dheere chal. I did try emulating them on one such desperate occasion; the results if memory serves me right, weren’t the same – the post-legging scene also, if I remember, involved a cop, some more autorickshaw drivers and women screaming and running into the front of moving buses. One is always left with the after-thought that he should have given the autodriver a nice kick between his legs and scream “banana split” in Mandarin before running.

A special mention also needs to be made of my friend Varun Veernala. Notice two things about the name – there is bravery spelt out clearly in the surname and there is no hint that he is connected to the Nizam of Hyderabad. When you pluck VV from Pecos and put him in front of any of our friendly autodrivers, both the observations, mentioned at the start of the para will go kaput. The bravery in his name quickly gets replaced with wetness in trousers and all autodrivers will immediately believe he is related to royalty. For the shortest of rides (and on one occasion, just for touching the autorickshaw), the drivers, on looking at VV will say “120”, “100” or the thereabouts. The auto unions have all passed decrees – the actor Ambareesh is our idol and no one shall charge Varun Veernala less than 100 for any ride. Great unity these auto drivers have.

So there! All I had to say about the drivers of Bangalore’s three-wheeled monsters. I do realize that I may not have touched all aspects. For example, his kindness in running over only one school kid when there is potential for three; his penchant for blowing cigarette smoke when the Miss inside is asthmatic – just to name a couple. After all, it is difficult to mention in one piece of writing, all that an auto-driver can do to you, without outraging modesty or referring to your lineage. I also choose to not make it completely exhaustive, so that the reader may pitch in with his views. No word limits. One nice compilation later, I can visit the auto-drivers union at Rajajinagar, and make my presentation. Let’s see if they will charge me one-and-a-half on the meter on my return journey from there. I dare them! And if I don’t blog within another week, you’ll know where to find me… please bring enough money.


Bikerdude said...

Neat blog buddy- will be back for more ;)

Suri said...

Hi BD - Came to your blog through Preeth's.. he's a classmate of mine from engg.
Thank you.. would be glad to see you write more too .. ;)

Django said...

I really wonder if sequels are any better, if not for the bourne ultimatum. There were some highs in the plot but was cluttered.

your friendly neighbourhood critic ;)

Suri said...

@ Django - feedback accepted bredher.. will work on a better sequel.. :)
customer satisfaction is our motto @ the wanderers.