Note: This article is written by one of the blog readers, now a friend 🙂 Nita Deb. She is a freelancer / writer and currently writes for Times of India, Westside Plus and Bandra Khar Plus. This article was published in Bandra Khar Plus approximately 2 weeks back.

The article is mainly related to the behavior of rickshawalahs in Mumbai. I have also posted something on the same lines here. But my article covers more about rules and ways to complaint against these guys.

Couple of more things: Amar is Nita’s Husband and Ashok is the name of her 7 year old son. (These names have been mentioned in the article)

Last personal note: haha, yea this one is last.. everyone must read this article. just excellent piece of write-up 🙂

One of these days I am going to beat somebody up. And that somebody is likely to be an auto driver. Amar, I am sure, is convinced that one day some auto driver is going to beat me up; but with the rains, and their nakhras, and their total disregard for little children, moms, and everyone else getting totally soaked and stranded in the downpour, I just can’t control my anger anymore.

At every railway station it is the same: they don’t want to take you to your destination, because it is too close. Every day, I face the opposite excuse: my journey is too long. Helloooo?? What ideal length of journey would you like me to make, Mr Snooty High And Mighty Autowallah? And why do you consider the doing of your job (which I presume you haven’t been forced into) to be the granting of a huge big favour to me?

My regular beat, once or twice daily, is the commute to Ashok’s school Tridha, at Vile Parle (E). Last week, I took Mr Youngandrestless, asked him if he would go to VP(E), and he agreed. I settled into the seat, and a minute later, he ground to a halt. He spat red spittle on the road, and growled, “Doosra lelo.” What??? Is it me, do I have BO? “Lunch ka time ho gaya hai.” And with that, he dug in his heels, and refused to budge, while I argued, threatened, took his number, took his photo on my mobile, checked his license. All this he submitted to with perfect equanimity. He knew it was all bark and no bite – what could I do to him, really? There he was, digging in his heels. Here I was, totally at his mercy. Short of hijacking his vehicle at gunpoint….(now that’s an idea. Where do I get a gun from? Anybody know?)…. When, as a last measure, I pointed out the obvious, that he had had his meter up, and so he should, by law, take a customer wherever he or she wanted to go, he just shrugged. “Lunch ka time ho gaya hai.” Bother. “Take me to the police station then,” I said, “I’ll give you lunch there.” A grin from him. And more spittle on the road. Well at least he wasn’t dirtying something that was clean. I sighed. Shouting was doing me no good. I got out into the rain. And walked till I found a kindhearted auto driver. Yes, there are one or two of them still hanging around….I think.

On the way back it was not funny. The auto driver slowed the vehicle outside Nanavaty, and began asking other auto drivers if they would go to my destination. Not even asking me if that was alright. As if it was the most normal thing in the world for two weary passengers to be treated like batons in a relay. Hokay, I’m tired now, you carry on from here….

Then there was the auto I engaged at Andheri, to take us home. I ensured he had heard and understood my destination correctly, and agreed to it in principle. My fault, I didn’t get a contract signed. At Milan, he suddenly stopped. Spat (is this some secret code I am not getting?). “Accelerator wire toot gaya. Doosra lelo.” It was coming down in buckets. I looked at him. He demanded his money, then ducked into a restaurant. The doosra I le-loed was rattling and the left tyre kept up a rhythmic thump. It got through Milan swimmingly (must be regular practice), but once on Linking Road, there was a loud “bang!” under us and a jolt – the right tyre had burst. While a crowd gathered around the vehicle, I gathered Ashok and belongings and hoofed it home. My fault again. I didn’t get the vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic before getting into it.

Yesterday, I lost it. When a guy dug in his heels and refused to go beyond a point, I was so mad that I got out and walked. I didn’t hurry, I didn’t look back, I simply got out, and didn’t pay him. He parked his auto and followed me, shouting, threatening, waving a thick keychain in my direction. I have never been so scared on a main road in Bombay in the daytime. Everyone on the road stopped to stare. I enlisted the help of Namdeo, always to be seen outside Olive, to accompany me home. Managed to get into my house, called the watchman, who was threatened too. I sent the money down with him. But I am still hopping mad. The guy was a maniac. I have his vehicle number. But what can I do with it?

I decided to find out if there was some legal recourse. I mean there has to be some authority responsible for the irresponsible behaviour of these auto drivers. Or is their policy “buyer beware”? I learnt the reason why they are not scared of the police. Apparently, if you have a complaint, you can only address it to the RTA. The traffic police are not duty bound to take complaints about auto drivers not taking you to your destination. If I am wrong, and I hope I am, can someone please enlighten me?

Meanwhile, I come home and crib about the autos everyday. Can’t live with them, can’t travel without them. On the phone with Rama, she points out that the vehicles are grossly polluting, adds that most drivers are fresh from their village and may not be able to drive well, and they certainly don’t know the roads and the inroads of our ilaka. Sandra and she try not to look as a long line of auto drivers queue up near North Avenue to wash their autos in the stagnant water…. after, of course, everybody has done their business there. Most convenient, eh, such a lovely pool of water to make their vehicles slime – sorry, shine. Aargh. I can’t believe I am actually writing such dirty stuff. Excuse me, while I go puke.

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