Pages

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 END.

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!

THE END.

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:





52 comments:

isha.. said...

what saaarrr.? :P :P :P
conversation is fab and truly correct...

Mohit said...

gud one gogi! At times I wonder this is one problem with no solution!

Mohit Singh said...

seriously this is one problem that troubles all alike. and once the auto enters the street of your home their meter automatically starts going up. you ask them go 50 meters beyond the decided place they start cursing you and will surely ask for 20 bucks extra.

ABI said...

opting for a taxi is cheaper sumtyms and less dramatic !! :P
and a few auto walas carry knives,soda bottles with them like ALL THE TYM.. trust me!!
few of them are thugs, working 4 sum political bigwigs and being autowala is jus a disguise, and d politicians need votes during elections,dats when d auto union comes 2 their rescue.. ts all interconnected and complicated like a relationship..
picking up a fight wid an autoguy is not a gud or a clever solution but i believe that, ts gna get better in d future, with prepaid autos and tata magic coming our ways.. lets hope 4 d best!!

and nice blog gogo.. impressive!!:D

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Isha--- thanks :D

@Mohit--- Hopefully not bhai...thanks :)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Dumka --- That's the problem with not having meters. They make us feel guilty as though we are the ones cheating them. And as usual it's the middle class that suffers the most.

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Abi --- Ha ha ha I get the point. Thank you :D

Teja said...

saaarrrrrrrrrrr.....enna saaar.....enna panindrikeeeeeeeee.......awesome writing saar asusual.......:)

minu said...

yenna saaaarrr semma ya u write saaarrr... :P gogo everythin ya said was so true.. dese auto guys hv become such a pain in the wrng plc..if v save up the money v pay them may b v'll b able to buy a 2nd hand bike from bells rd..!!! they loot wit out mercy..!! sometimes they put to much senti dramas for us to pay them..they r one set a heartless ppl askin money for nothin..!! but dis is a prob tht can never hv a solution lik wht mohit said..!!

gogo boy ya jus amazin very proud ma frnd :)

Thanish said...

Great content of blogging dude... Even a localite like me have burnt my hands with these guys... Auto walas think they are Rajnikanth in disguise...There is a longterm solution if we deal this problem with national interest.... But immediate solution is not possible... Lets wait and see...

vipul said...

nice one dude!!conversation was damn funny n true too... :))

Varshaa said...

Very very funny and true..the 1st paragraph was the best !! lovd reading it!

Kayhan said...

i make it a personal mission to pay them as less as i can.... get sadistic pleasures in doing that.... i m clicking my teeth as i write this.... emotions going WILDDDDD!!! lol

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Teja --- ha ha ha thank you :) :)

@Nammi --- thank you so much :)See that's the sad part....everybody suffers so much because of this but nobody even has the slightest hope of the situation getting better. It's like there is no government at all. Pathetic!

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Thanish --- ofcourse there would be a solution if the people running the administration want a solution. But why do they care? They are happy travelling in chauffeur driven cars running on the tax payers money.

@Vipul --- thanks man...glad you liked it :) :)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Varshaa--- thank you so much :) :)

@Kayhan --- Ha ha ha ha I can just imagine man :D :D :P

subbia said...

i hate autos as a rule and chennai's no exception. their driving's pathetic and once an auto driver hit me from behind and he came and fought with me for applying my brakes in my car to avoid stray pedestrians.. he had the gal to say i shud not have applied the brakes so suddenly for no reason. and i know that the presence of a traffic police man nearby was the only thing preventing him from picking a serious fight with me. they charge rates on par with an a/c cab and drive with no regard to our safety and clog the traffic and overall are a menace to our society. and now the autowallas are conducting protests to ban tata magic because people are abandoning autos in favour of them cause of their safety and comfort and reasonable prices, for price wise its just a mini mini bus. if i have to do one more year of driving in chennai am sure i'll go john rambo on them.. i absolutely hate them.

krithi said...

Awesome ashish and so very true.. everyone's waiting that something would be done about it soon..(hopes in vain)!

krithi said...

Awesome ashish and so very true.. everyone s waiting that something would be done about it soon..(hopes in vain)!

subtlescribbler said...

u knw what? wen i started reading ur post i was secretly thinking that the situation couldnt be as bad anywhere as it is in Delhi, but ur conversation took me by surprise. it really seems pathetic and frustrating....but i loved ur post completely, witty and yet centers around the problem :)

sarah

ash said...

good one,
I am talking about the 80's when there used to be a meter and they still would not use it,
My advantage was knowing tamil and having the energy and the spirit to fight, till I got the right one. I would use one that would use the meter and tip him so that I know the price of getting to a place!!!
things have gotten worse
Glad to hear that you like Chennai!!
usha

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Subbia --- I'm sure everybody who has ever traveled in an auto would have at least a dozen stories to narrate.

I got into a tata magic once and all of a sudden there was this group of auto walas who came running to chase the vehicle off like it was some stray dog. Sad!

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Krithi--- thank you :) well we are all hoping...unfortunately that's all that we can do

@Sarah --- thank you so much :D I'm glad I could surprise you :D

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Usha--- back then, you at least had an option of paying by meter. Today, you would be considered retarded if you asked them to go by meter. It's one problem with no solution in sight.

kvsmohan said...

Dear Ashish ! your article made for some hilarious reading ! The Chennai auto tamasha is a never ending problem with no solution ! The only reason the State Govt.wants to address the problem is because ??????? You Guessed right ! The real owners of the Autos (90% , i believe) are Politicians and Police guys. So everyone except the hapless commuter is Rombha happy. Guess you will just have to grin and bear it unless you get your own set of wheels or use 11 No. bus (your feet, buddy !) Thanks for some great reading !

Sameer said...

Hey gogo it was fun reading this post ! ...autowalas can top the list of "The most hated people in a city " , in India !

Ashish Kalsi said...

@KVS Mohan --- That's the worst part uncle, that everybody knows about it and still nothing is done. I have been grinning and facing it for the last 5 years, so much so that my jaw is beginning to hurt. The no. 11 bus has also been overused, hopefully a new set of wheels is around the corner...fingers crossed :D :D

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Sam --- thanks man...couldn't agree more with you. And amongst the auto walas in the country, Chennai would top the list :P

shashi said...

Simbly true about chennai autos!!!!!!!!!!!!! Local language is a must to know or Bachaooooooooooooo

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Sashi --- been bachaoing for so long now :P :D

Purba said...

They are the same all over the country. They are rude, moody and you are expected to suit their convenience.

Colours of boulevard said...

hahaha.. how true... seems like u know how i deal with auto wala's every day.. :)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Purba --- it's sad that we accepted that them with all their flaws.

@Colors of boulevard--- Ha ha ha I guess I do ;)

pari said...

lol.....amazin conversationnnn................... lovelllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Pari --- thank you so much :)

greekgodali said...

I loved this write up to the core. Its exactly what every North Indian college going/working guy suffers in Chennai. I cant even count the number of times i have had quarrels with them. The worst autowallahs that you will find in the entire country. The best part i liked was ' Ok 100rs sit, as soon as you sit ok 130rs..' its like the same has happened with me so many times that now before i bargain with any autowallahs i make sure to repeat my proposal 10 times clearly and clearly mentioning the exact spot and also adding- ' anna dont say on the way that you need extra 50 rs'.... keep it up bro

greekgodali said...

I loved this write up to the core. Its exactly what every North Indian college going/working guy suffers in Chennai. I cant even count the number of times i have had quarrels with them. The worst autowallahs that you will find in the entire country. The best part i liked was ' Ok 100rs sit, as soon as you sit ok 130rs..' its like the same has happened with me so many times that now before i bargain with any autowallahs i make sure to repeat my proposal 10 times clearly and clearly mentioning the exact spot and also adding- ' anna dont say on the way that you need extra 50 rs'.... keep it up bro

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Purba --- it's sad that we accepted that them with all their flaws.

@Colors of boulevard--- Ha ha ha I guess I do ;)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Sam --- thanks man...couldn't agree more with you. And amongst the auto walas in the country, Chennai would top the list :P

kvsmohan said...

Dear Ashish ! your article made for some hilarious reading ! The Chennai auto tamasha is a never ending problem with no solution ! The only reason the State Govt.wants to address the problem is because ??????? You Guessed right ! The real owners of the Autos (90% , i believe) are Politicians and Police guys. So everyone except the hapless commuter is Rombha happy. Guess you will just have to grin and bear it unless you get your own set of wheels or use 11 No. bus (your feet, buddy !) Thanks for some great reading !

ash said...

good one,
I am talking about the 80's when there used to be a meter and they still would not use it,
My advantage was knowing tamil and having the energy and the spirit to fight, till I got the right one. I would use one that would use the meter and tip him so that I know the price of getting to a place!!!
things have gotten worse
Glad to hear that you like Chennai!!
usha

krithi said...

Awesome ashish and so very true.. everyone s waiting that something would be done about it soon..(hopes in vain)!

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Varshaa--- thank you so much :) :)

@Kayhan --- Ha ha ha ha I can just imagine man :D :D :P

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Teja --- ha ha ha thank you :) :)

@Nammi --- thank you so much :)See that's the sad part....everybody suffers so much because of this but nobody even has the slightest hope of the situation getting better. It's like there is no government at all. Pathetic!

Thanish said...

Great content of blogging dude... Even a localite like me have burnt my hands with these guys... Auto walas think they are Rajnikanth in disguise...There is a longterm solution if we deal this problem with national interest.... But immediate solution is not possible... Lets wait and see...

Teja said...

saaarrrrrrrrrrr.....enna saaar.....enna panindrikeeeeeeeee.......awesome writing saar asusual.......:)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Dumka --- That's the problem with not having meters. They make us feel guilty as though we are the ones cheating them. And as usual it's the middle class that suffers the most.

ABI said...

opting for a taxi is cheaper sumtyms and less dramatic !! :P
and a few auto walas carry knives,soda bottles with them like ALL THE TYM.. trust me!!
few of them are thugs, working 4 sum political bigwigs and being autowala is jus a disguise, and d politicians need votes during elections,dats when d auto union comes 2 their rescue.. ts all interconnected and complicated like a relationship..
picking up a fight wid an autoguy is not a gud or a clever solution but i believe that, ts gna get better in d future, with prepaid autos and tata magic coming our ways.. lets hope 4 d best!!

and nice blog gogo.. impressive!!:D

Mohit said...

gud one gogi! At times I wonder this is one problem with no solution!

Anonymous said...

There are lot of irritating things about Chennai, but the auto drivers take the cake. I stayed in chennai for 5 years and I was harassed so badly that I nearly stopped going anywhere which required auto. The buses are too crowded and there are no AC buses, like in Bangalore. Contrast that to mumbai where ALL autos run by meter regardless and I was only too eager to take an auto even when I could have taken a bus. That is probably one reason I visited a lot of places and restaurants because I dont have to worry about bargaining. They charge much lower but they are seldom without passengers. It is true that the auto drivers struggle to get by, but that is their own doing. They are idle most of the time waiting for passengers. Instead if they follow meter, they would have more passengers, and even though margins are less, they would still make much more. I have been threatened many times by auto drivers, so I have no qualms about saying that I really hate them. I hope to God I dont have to return to Chennai. If you are not a native of Chennai, you would have known what I am talking about.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly true. It was rainy day where he accepted for the price an dropped me in the middle saying auto can go only this much if you pay extra i ll drop in destination. Really horrible.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Wish to share the same experience which I had today. My first trip to Chennai for short official work and had heard a lot about the famous Chennai auto drivers. Today being a Sunday, I thought to go to Marina beach from mugiappara where i am presently staying.All the auto drivers started with Rs 350-400 and I was shocked because i was expecting a max of rs 125 or 150. Finally after negotiating one auto driver agreed for Rs 200 and I was left wondering why I was relieved at being looted for only rs 200 :)