Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Automaton - 3

I have cribbed, time and again, about auto-drivers in Delhi, but finally, one of the tribe has redeemed the clan.

I was on my way to the Caferati read-meet, in Defence Colony, which is exactly five minutes from my new place. I hopped into an auto; the driver - for once, somebody who neither haggled nor leched nor insulted - asked me for directions, since he didn't know the way himself. I received directions over the phone and told the driver to look out for a petrol pump on his left.

It so happened that we never saw any petrol pump on the left. So the guy just kept going straight. We went ALL the way over two sets of flyovers, and I found myself in Lodi Road, which I only became conscious of when I saw the India International Centre building.

I let out a yell and scolded the driver, "Where the hell do you think you're going? This is Lodi Road!! Defence Colony was... was... well, way back... back there."

He turned around and very politely said, "But madam; we still haven't seen that petrol pump."

It was only now that I noticed him really - soft-spoken, an almost educated accent, a grey uniform and clouded dark eyes, gentle and downcast.

I cleared my throat and said, stiffly, "Well, you'll just have to turn back now." while trying very hard to not sound like I was completely lost.

The guy turned right back, brought us back to the point we'd started from, drew up near a matronly lady and suggested, "Maybe we should ask, madam?"

So, I stepped out and did ask. The driver listened quietly to the directions, followed them very precisely, managed to get me to Defence Colony, took the various twists and turns we had to take, because I had forgotten the house, yet again, stopping to ask for directions every hundred yards.

By this time, I was just grateul to have reached the place, and was willing to pay up any amount quoted; after all, the fault was mine.

And when I finally asked him how much I should pay him, the driver shrugged and said, "As much as you think fit."

I persisted, "But still.. I don't know how much to pay, since we weren't using the meter."

He shrugged again, "You decide."

So, I paid him double the sum we'd agreed on, and did so happily, without gruding him a single paisa, and to hell with the meter. Without argument, he accepted, and left.

I do have to rant against buses, though.

All morning, I've been cursing the bus conductor who did not return my change. I had handed him a hundred rupee note and he told me to wait for the change. I waited half an hour, but the change wasn't forthcoming. In the subsequent rush to get off the bus, I forgot to ask for it too. My fault, I suppose. But even so...

I am suspicious because this isn't the first time. Many a bus conductor in Delhi 'forgets' to return my change. Curiously, I've yet to meet a bus conductor who forgets to charge me. Or any other passenger. Their memories (to give the devils their due) are razor-sharp.

They remember precisely which passenger got a ticket made (that is the term - though I've never understood it... tickets are always 'made' or 'cut' in Delhi; though actually, they should be 'torn') for which destination - who gets on at what stop, and buys what ticket, and must get off where, and how much extra must be paid because you forgot to get off at your own stop - they remember EVERYTHING.

Except, how much they owe you. That, they often forget.


Jabberwock said...

Yep, it's such a pleasure to come across an auto-driver who isn't boorish. Happens maybe once every three months and then one feels like offloading the entire contents of one's wallet in gratitude.
Haven't been on a bus in months but my big problem with them involves their untiring efforts to run me off the road. Happily, they don't charge for that service.

Anonymous said...

Well, conductors 'forgetting' to give back your due happens a lot In Delhi but once, one refused to give me back change, apprently because he had none!

Morquendi said...

this is just a random unrelated story about buses...

once in chennai i got onto the bus with the right amount of change in my hand and found a seat and immediately fell asleep...

a half an hour later one of those bus inspectors hopped on and when he asked for the ticket i gave him the 4 rupees and he thought i was trying to bribe him with it because i, very clearly, did not have a ticket.

forgive me, this was my first week in indian buses and did not know the difference between a conductor and an inspector.

so he hauls my sleepy ass off the bus and writes me a fine slip for some 500 rs.

my friend kunal has meanwhile hops off the bus and negotiates with the guy. kunal slips him a 50 but i begin to protest and say i am willing to pay the 500 because and take the reciept because i don't want to bribe anyone...

kunal asks me to shut up and pays him off and we both get in the bus...

Morquendi said...

had a moment with a colombo auto guy last night...

he drove me home after work and asked for 600 rs.

me: i normally pay 300.

him: ok 450.

me: no 250.

him: huh? you just said you pay 300?

me: yes, that's normally

him: so?

me: you tried to rip me off so i'm only paying you 250. it's a penalty.

him: you're nuts.

me: you're probably right.

(i left 250 rs is his hand and turned around and walked away. he didn't protest because he was to stunned)

Sanjeev said...

hilarious story, Morquendi. I almost fell of my chair laughing! More people should try this when the auto-fellas haggle.. :)

1conoclast said...

On one rare occasion, around 3 AM in the then forsaken Mahakali, there was this autowalla who asked my friend Vikas for 50 bucks when the normal fare was just 20 bucks. Vikas got in without a word.
When they reached his building, he got off just as he had gotten on, without a word and walked.
The autowalla assumed he was going into the building to get some change, but Vikas did not return. He went home and crashed almost immediately. He was woken briefly by some frantic bell ringing half an hour later and some swearing & hollering, but he slept on firmly.
That's the way to deal with these errant autowallas!

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