Second to the metro, the autos can be considered as a second lifeline for Delhi. Places where there is no reach of metros or buses, autos usually are the best option to travel. Yes, best if you have the power or expertise or the patience to bargain.
It has been more than 2 ½ years of surviving in Delhi now. But autowalas still don’t cease to surprise me! If they realise you are new to the city, they will strip you of all your money and you will realise only after paying them. So the first tip for a good bargain is to show as if you were born in the city and you know the place like the back of your hand. Take the help of Google map or something but never show that you do not know.
Recently government has made the use of meters in autos mandatory much to their dismay. The public including me saw new hope of paying the appropriate fare finally. But again the autowalas outsmarted us. They have far more devious plans.
So now, at first you state your destination name. Majority of them will answer with an ambitious number. You say “Bhaiyya, meter pe chalo na”. Usually the answer is “Meter kharaab hai, chal nahin raha hai”. Then maybe because you were getting late (thanks to that 10 min snooze alarm), you get on it.
Second scene might be that you asked for the meter to be run, and he takes you via the longest route possible but at the same time, making you feel as if it is the shortest route. And you end up paying much more!
Due to my travelling job, I have come across many excuses from these autowalas. They are charging more because “wapas khaali aana padega” or “mujhe ghar jaana hai aur waha se mera ghar bahut door hai” Can you imagine that we are expected to pay for their trip back home too?? Another excuse is “bahut jam laga hai madam”. I have tried using the formula (learnt from a friend) “jam mein phase toh Rs 20 extra nahin phase toh meter se Rs 10 kam”. Sadly this formula has yet to work for me. One more proposed deal from autowalasis “meter se Rs 20 extra, mera us side ulta parta hai”. The scene is really crazy.
Once every week, I need to go to my company’s factory situated in the dirtiest industrial area of Delhi, the infamous Okhla Phase 2. Battered roads that are built every year, the extremely smelly Sanjay Colony and the not-so-civilized public. Believe me, it is very difficult to get an auto to reach there. By meter, it is exactly Rs 37. I had paid once. But the autowalas eagerly fight to take me to Okhla Phase 2. And they recognize me even when my face is fully covered from the heat. I am the Madam who pays Rs 50 to go Okhla Phase 2. Single sawari. It is not that I have not tried to fight for justice. I have, many times, at the cost of reaching late to office, standing under the scorching sun with my laptop bag while listening to all the excuses listed above. So this way I have reached the status of Madam amongst the autowalas.
I also had the opportunity of coming across very decent and polite autowalas also. Surprised? Yes, they very much exist though a rare species. Only last week, I reached the New Delhi Railway Station by paying the correct fare of Rs 150 in the early morning at 5:30 am (as already mentioned, I travel a lot!). I had been paying Rs 180 till now. Once, overcome by emotions while experiencing polite behavior of an auto driver, I said to him ”You are very polite, thank you”. He stared blankly at me.
Some autowalas switch on the meter without being told so. They will take the exact fare, not a penny more.
I know one who often takes me Okhla. He is a young guy called Raja full of energy and vigor. He keeps his auto clean and decorated. He wishes me “Goodmorning Madam! How are you? How does my auto look? Maine isko aaj subah dhoya hai..phool se sajaya hai”.I say “Acchahai”. Once he said to me “Madam, main aapko pehchaan hi nahin pa raha tha aaj. Aapke chehre ka light chala gaya hai. Aap subah ko uthke kya karte ho? I suspiciously said “Umm..bas..ghar ka kaam wagera..Kyun..?” And he answered “Aap kal se uthke first ek glass paan ipiyo. Ek hafte mein aapke chehre ka light wapas aa jayega..mera guarantee hai..” I had a good laugh with him that day. He recently gave me his phone number because he wants me to get a job for his sister. I have not been able to do so till now. Maybe I should start searching.
I am taking my morning glass of water regularly though.
(Written on October 2013)