Surviving the Moonu-Chakara-Manja-Kalar-Vandikkarargal* in #chennai.

Auto rickshaws. You will notice mixed reactions/ responses in the listener's face when you say it. Some people don't mind (usually the upper middle class and up) but some people are terrified at their hearts, actually wallets. Traveling in an auto is considered 'luxury' in chennai. You can spot them everywhere, literally. Chennai is considered incomplete without them and i bet, a visitor/guest wont leave chennai without traveling in an auto and end up getting mugged (not all though, the getting-mugged part). They are the first ones to welcome you in the railway stations ahead of your relations. If you are approached by a compete stranger with or without an unbuttoned khaki asking "Enga Saar ponum?*", no doubt, it's them. I feel so very bad for them as they don't have complete jurisdiction in the airport. There is a strong reason behind this, actually two. One is that they speak better English than their four wheeled counterparts with which they can attract customers, which the taxi wallahs will not be very happy about. Yes, its true. Most of the auto wallahs in the state can speak better English and can clearly convey what they want to say than most of the taxi drivers and call center people in the state. But ultimately in the end they end up charging for every hard-learned word that came out of their mouths. The other reason is that they have one wheel less which implies lesser space to accommodate more than 3 people plus their baggage.

The world famous Yellow VW Beetle (I personally love that car so much. Cute and Chick. I even saw one today) does not make heads turn here and is only a runner-up compared to our autos rickshaws. They have the minimum turning radius equal to that of the Tata Nano, better ground clearance for chennai roads and the speed. Not to forget the sound that they produce. Harley Davidson will die to buy the rights for such an engine. I bet. If there is a hike announced by the govt. in petrol prices you can see the gas stations painted yellow. Seriously. They are the first to reach and the last to leave in the process of getting their tanks full. What made me write this post is the same reason as to why auto rickshaws annoys people. Heavy Charging. Oh God, you can't even imagine how quick they are to react. Their reflexes are faster than Michael Schumacher's Ferrari. Even before you start to say your destination they are ready with their rates. Pah, lightning fast reflexes i would say and you have to give it to them for their sharp reflexes. Yesterday, i had to attend an interview along with my friend keerthi and i only had 20 minutes to reach the destination. We thought of taking an auto but when i asked the auto wallah as to how much will it cost me, he said 250 bucks. 250 bucks for 10 and a half kilometers. I replied with a smile and walked away cracking silent jokes calculating how many biryanis and how many films i could watch with that much money(4 Thalappakattu biryanis or 2 films with an elite ticket in sathyam theatre). Luck was on my side. A bus came and i only had to spend 22 bucks. That's a huge saving and i did reach there in time. And coming back to the heavy-charging part, my father used to say "avar'kkokke akrantham'anu"(malayalam) which translates to "they are greedy like hell".

They know they will not get what they ask(rate). Its a far loose shot, but hey, they still have nothing to lose. Someone new to the city easily fall prey for their "petrol vela eeri pochu saar","rendu flyover eri eranganam", "athu romba thooram saar inga irunthu", "romba traffic'ana area saar athu", and "koncham pathu pottu kudunga saar" stories. If you are a city dweller you will have to fight for a bargain and passers by stare at you for your activity. Demanding 100 for the same distance that i used to travel for a 50 just a few days back just because the govt. hiked petrol prices by 5 or 6 rupees is too much i say, way too much. Not a chance. Here's how you survive;

1.The bargain: The first step is to keep a check on your patience. You're soon going to be invited to play a game with only numbers. They use the random number generation algorithm, don't ask me which one, but they do. So some random number comes out of their throat and lands on their tongue. As soon as you hear it your brain will experience a chaotic war-like situation but keep your cool. Smile, actually grin. Reply with half, exactly half of what the auto wallah just said to you. Remember, with this reply you have now officially joined his game but the difference is that you only say exactly the half of the number he says. Then again he says a number greater than what you replied with. If you're happy with the deal go ahead, close the deal and board the auto. If you're not, keep playing. Remember, too much conversation is not going to do any good. So make it short. And if you have no clue about the distance you're going to travel, please make sure you at least have a rough number from your relatives or friends or someone on the road. Because, every auto wallah is one of his kind. He may end up harassing you in public for a stupid number that just came out of your mouth. Any bit of improvisation in this technique may/will land you in trouble. So beware.

2.The Walk Away: Now, you only walk away in two situations. If you notice that the auto wallah is not at all coming in line with the rate, its time that you stage a walk-away. This is where you've to bring out all your acting skills. If you hit the right chords, he may/will call you back or else its the other situation where you walk away for real.

3.Take a bus: Very very economical. Now with the addition of A/C buses traveling just got easy. But again, A/C buses are economical only when there are not more than 2 or 3 persons in total in your travel. Or else Auto is the best option. It is very hard to find call-taxis these days as IT/ Corporates book them in advance.

BTW, the first two methods only come handy for the general autos. You can not bargain in the share auto section where your travel will not cost more than 20 bucks.

Trivia: If you are traveling by bike and at some point you think you're lost, Auto Wallahs are the FIRST ones to be approached. They have google maps fed into their brains. Trust me, they know everything from corners to flyovers. Approach them and you will not waste time. They are the path redeemers.

P.S. Tested under favorable conditions. Worked fine for me. And i'm not the one to be blamed if you end up getting harassed following this. It is purely based on your luck/risk. Also, there are many good auto wallahs as well. It is only because of situations they are made to do things and charge us heavily. I or this post clearly have/has no intention of hurting anyone's feelings and has no connection with anyone living or dead. Cheers.

Translations -
Moonu-Chakara-Manja-Kalar-Vandikkarargal* -Three Wheeled Yellow Color Auto Wallahs.
Enga Saar ponum?* - Where do you have to go ?
petrol vela eeri pochu saar - petrol prices have gone up, sir.
rendu flyover eri eranganam - you have to take 2 flyovers in your the travel.
athu romba thooram saar inga irunthu - That's a lot of distance to cover, sir.
romba traffic'ana area saar athu - Its an area with very high traffic.
koncham pathu pottu kudunga saar - kindly understand my situation and pay me accordingly, sir.


the hyper enthusiast said...

The best of yours till date...

Vysakh V Menon said...

ha ha. Thanks. keep checking for more ! :)


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