Sunday, January 16, 2011

The autos of Chennai...

Chennai has become an unexpected second home. I spent 4 years of my college life here and today, I have my first job in the same city. So my love affair with Chennai has been on for 5 solid years and going strong. Do I like the place? Surprisingly, I do. I like a lot of things about this metro but there are certain aspects that irk me. The heat, humidity, people staring at you for no reason at all, making you feel like an orang-utan that has just escaped from the zoo, are a few that I can think of now. But what tops my list, is the autos of Chennai.

Watch out! Here they come.

 I wasn't a big fan of the autos in Hyderabad either. I felt they were rude, irrational, abused too much, would pester you to pay 10 Rupees over what the meter showed and spat a lot. It's only after I came to Chennai did I realise how much I missed my Hyderbadi autos.

The meters might not look like this but
they function the same way.

I'm lost on where to start about the Chennai autos and am a little worried that the list would go too long for your liking. So I'm going to control my emotions and be as sophisticated as possible in handling it. Bloody #*^*%#*^. Yeah! That feels better.

For starters, autos in Chennai don't run on meters. Is there a regulatory body that takes care of pricing? No. Then how do you decide how much to pay? It varies day by day, driver by driver, and circumstance by circumstance. If a driver’s wife has been pestering him to buy her a Saree for a while and he decides to purchase it on the day you are travelling with him, then boy are you in for some serious trouble. You, the customer have got no control on how much you pay. It's solely dependent on their whims and fancy. To make matters worse, irrespective of the destination, it is customary, almost habitual for them to quote a price 5 times the actual cost and it has to be a 3 digit figure. 
The negotiation.

But what takes the cake, is the negotiation process to fix a price, that takes place every time you want to hire an auto. Plus, if you don’t know Tamil (the local language) or look like you’re from out of town, then god bless you.

Ideal scenario (like what happens in any other “normal” place):

Passenger: Auto!

Auto screeches to a halt.

Passenger: Take to me to somerandomplace.

Driver: Okay/ No.


THE Chennai Scenario – (Non-Tamilian passenger):

Passenger: Auto!

Auto screeches to a halt, right in the centre on the road. This is followed by a vigorous to and fro motion of the clenched fist with the thumb pointing skywards which means, “Where do you want to go”?

Passenger (screams): T. Nagar?

Driver: <Puts one hand to his ear and draws his tongue out making a ridiculous, monkey like expression>.

This when interpreted to any “human” language would mean that the driver failed to hear, thanks to the million vehicles behind him honking so mercilessly. They should realize that he is busy and trying to have a conversation. Insensitive lot!

Passenger (screams louder): Teeeeeee Nagar.

This time he hears it and comes over to the side of the road since the destination is worth going to. He gets out, ready for action.

Driver: T Nagar aaah?? (In Chennai, “aah” is the phonetic representation of the symbol “?”, like I have already mentioned in my post – My foray into the corporate world-post prologue )

Passenger:  Yeah!

Driver: T-Nagar blah blah blah? (This is followed by yet another vigorous to and fro motion of the clenched fist. This gesture means he wants to know where exactly in T-Nagar).

Passenger (composed): Anna. Sheraton towers. You go? (You have to talk this way to get them to understand).

Driver: Tower park aaah?? Anna Nagar aah?? (He points to the moon, which is to indicate that the place is really far away. An experienced passenger would know that this means he is mentally preparing you for a major loot)

Passenger (little less composed): Ille ille!! (no no!!) Sheraton towers. Hotel anna. Big hotel. T Nagar only.

Driver: Oooooohhhhhh!!! (He just had an Eureka moment plus the clothes, thankfully). Seri seri, polam. (come come, let’s go)

Then he casually goes into his auto and revs it up to show he is ready to go. This is the tricky part. If you haven’t dealt with the autos in Chennai, REMEMBER – NEVER GET INTO AN AUTO WITHOUT DECIDING ON A PRICE.

Passenger (still composed): Wait! Evalo?? (How much??)

He still keeps revving and looking dead straight, acting deaf.
The irked passenger taps the driver’s shoulder and asks

Passenger (kinda losing it): ANNA!! Tell evalo first.

Driver: You tell.

Passenger (still keeping the cool): No you tell.

Driver: Okay fine. <thinks> Give me 250 Rupees.

Passenger (frustration begins to creep in): 250???? What anna? 60 Rupees correct.

Driver: <More hand gestures follows to tell the passenger that he is crazy and out of his mind> 60 Rupees aah? Fine 240.

Passenger: 80 final.

Refuses and gets back into his auto ready to leave. Just as he starts his auto, he asks.

Driver: Final 150.

Passenger refuses and starts walking away.
Driver watches the passenger take 7 steps.

Driver: <SCREAMS> Saaaaaarrrr!!!  COME!!! 140 last.

Passenger (Pissed off now): 100 Rs final price Anna.

Driver: Come saar. Wokay (read okay).

Passenger (Kinda relieved) comes back

Driver: Come saaar. Sit. 130.

Passenger ( Loses it): What nonsense!

Driver: Okay 120 final.

Passenger (getting desperate): Fine!


If the passenger is lucky, he would get dropped to the destination of his choice and for the same price agreed. If you think he got quite a bargain, you must know that the meter wouldn’t have read anything more than 50-55 Rs. That is how pathetic the auto situation in Chennai is and I wish you never have to go through this agony.

For the last 5 years, I have been overspending on these merciless yellow machines of Chennai like so many others. Their misdemeanours are no secret and they break rules with impunity. You try arguing or fighting back and they gather 10 other auto drivers and end up bullying you. Backed by powerful unions who are politically connected gives them the power to openly break the laws and do as they please.

During the course of writing this post, I came across numerous news paper articles and blogs which talk about this problem and inaction on the part of the government. Going by the track record of Tamil Nadu politics, which is perhaps the most corrupt in the country, no respite can be expected.  

And as usual, the common man suffers in silence.

Self explanatory.

Photo sources:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is most corrupt of them all?

Think corruption and the first thing that comes to mind is the Indian politician. Corruption is a very integral ingredient of Indian politics, a fact I was aware since grade 2. My definition of a politician hasn’t changed much since then: they were (and are) really good and successful crooks, who excelled in the art of treachery and made enough money and contacts, to keep them out of jail and trouble.

The hue and cry over a minister being corrupt is all humbug. It’s actually amusing to see the astonishment and shock portrayed by the media, the opposition party and everybody else except one group. The one to complain should be the taxpaying common man, whose money is being stacked, year after year, in some bank, with pretty girls at the reception desk, in Switzerland. Then why is he quiet?

The common Indian man has learnt to insulate himself from such news reports because there is no good coming over losing your temper over a “petty” issue such as this. He knows that a politician is to corruption as a Tamilian is to sambar  or as a Gujrati is to dhokla. It’s bloody common sense man!

Be the change you want to see.

The Indian man is happy with his life, his new shiny 2 wheeler, a small house, his plump wife and children, rinku n pinku and their pet Pomeranian Ram Charan Singh. 

However, he would love to have better roads to ride his 2 wheeler, have electricity throughout the day so that his children can study and his wife can watch her favourite soap 3 times a day including repeats. However, he doesn’t think much about it because one gets what is in their “fate”.

In the name of “fate”, the common man has learned to ignore and accept the atrocities of our “leaders” and carry on with their lives. Why? Ask yourself the question, why?

Be the change you want to see.

Time and again, we have observed the victory of evil and powerful, over the good and weak. We live in a democracy of hypocrisy. It’s true that India is a people’s country, a few particular people. We have given up the fight, if ever there was a fight. Giving up is the most pragmatic solution. Giving up is the right thing to do for a common man. The ones who fight and often perish are foolish people, way too emotional for the real world.

Be the change you want to see.

Politicians are bickering on who is more corrupt of the two. Media, news, movies, sports, government and every other business which generates revenue is run by powerful PR professionals for their rich, influential clients. Journalists are being bought, scam after scam unfolds day in and day out but life has to go on. Why shouldn’t the clerk outside every government office still want his chai paani (petty bribe)? In all probability, he might have paid somebody off to get the job in the first place. He needs to get a return on investment. It’s bloody common sense man!  

Be the change you want to see.

Where is this post of mine going? I have no clue. I have no solution and I don’t even know the depth of the problem. But I can feel an anger burgeoning within me. I can feel myself turning into one of these pragmatists, beginning to accept the filth, feel helpless and blame it on “fate”. NO! I will not let this happen to me. I would prefer to be foolish, optimistic and with a belief that things will get better.

I want to see justice, see good, feel trust and live a clean life.

I am being the change I want to see, are you?

Picture Source: