As a Chennai-ite who have no driving skills whatsoever, to commute from one place to another by road, alone, I have 3 options- Autos, share autos or Taxis. I usually prefer share autos, in spite of the over crowding roller coaster experience (cue to read my previous blog on ‘Share auto experience’ :D) but there are times I take autos, mostly because I was in hurry or because of the unbearable scorching sun that makes me think that I would melt if I stand another second in the heat.
Auto rides in Chennai is a different but great experience. If you are new to Chennai and if you want to see all the tourist spots, but you want to avoid traffic, autowallas to rescue! They know all the nukes and corners of this city and will take you to the destination as soon as possible, if requested. It is a part of the whole ‘Chennai experience’! And also you get to update yourself on politics; raise in prices of vegetable, fruits, diesel and petrol; traffic news; gossips about your favorite heroes and heroines! And who needs a tourist guide, who by the way demands extra charge, when you have an auto man explaining you the historic significance of the place you are going to visit, along with some juicy details known only to the locals!
Everybody knows about the rule that the Autowallas are supposed to ‘meter their rides’. But this does not happen, most of the times. Don’t get me wrong, there are some honest autowallas who demand only the meter charge and gives you back the exact change, but there are some autowallas just empties you pocket. They just try to make the best of the situation. Like if they know that you are in a hurry, or that you don’t know the exact location of your destination, of if it is night time and you a girl boarding the auto alone- that’s it. They just double or triple the amount that it normally takes and sometimes you don’t have any other go but to board the auto and mumble through out your ride.
The situation is even worse in the sub urban areas. My university is located some 45kms outside the city- yeah, I know!- and the distance between my campus and the local railway station is 1.5 kms. Most of the days, we walk to the station- me and my friends. But there are some days when we are in a hurry to board the train and we call for an auto. The autowalls charge 40 rupees for 1.5 kms in the place of 25 or 30 rupees, which is also okay. But the thing is, if you decide to share the ride with another person who is also going to the same station, and if the autowalla know that we both are not friends and are just sharing the ride, he demands 40 rupees form both of us, and if we try to haggle with him- cue curse words!
Another time, I was going to my grandparents house at night, alone, and it usually take 30 mins and 120 rupees to reach there, from my house (this 120 rupees is also not the meter charge, the stand autowallas usually charge that amount, and no amount of haggling will make them reduce it) But this time I took auto from a different auto stand and he demanded 150 rupees, after arguing with him for another 10 mins, he agreed on 120 and we started the ride. And half way through the ride he started getting restless. And after a point, he demanded another 100 rupees to continue. It was night time and the place was not that familiar to me, I was startled at first but then regained my composure and tried to reason with him. But it was going no where, so I got down, paid him the 120 rupees and started walking the rest of the way like a boss, only after giving him a piece of my mind. Thank god it was near my grandparents home!
This is the way we deal with auto drivers who are supremely dismissive of their customers, and us getting rides always depended on the rare occurrences of their condescension. All in the daily life of a Chennai-ite! But recently, there are some improvements, I think. The traffic police occasionally check the autowallas, and one or two have changed. But the biggest boon is the newly started ‘OLA autos’, the metered rides along with the professional drivers and on time arrival of the autos has made our lives easier!
But, nonetheless we can’t avoid our beloved autowallas, and sometimes the friendly chat and the political updates are worth the extra charge! As I said, All in the daily life of a Chennai-ite!
Hola to you!- Raises kappi tumbler!