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The Better India

written by Dhimant Parekh on Saturday, September 15, 2007

"He has been given the red light on the top anyway. Isn't that enough?" A question that made the two of us, an auto driver (the orator) and me, chuckle through the light rain that splattered across the gaping windows of the auto rickshaw. It was a Friday evening and since I had not taken my car to office, I was on the lookout for an auto to head back home. A 20 minute long wait under a light drizzle ended when I finally spotted an empty auto who agreed to take me home. "Quite difficult to get an auto today", I muttered. "Holiday sir. Today is a holiday, that's why", the driver replied. That explained it. The day was off since people were celebrating the festival and hence there was a shortage of autos. After a brief while during which I made a few calls, the driver said, "People here are so engrossed in celebrating festivals. There is absolutely no sense of service to customers". I didn't quite get that and said so. "About there not being enough autos, sir. What if someone has an emergency? What will they do? In the meanwhile these auto-drivers would be drinking and smoking, all in the name of the hubba (festival)" I was surprised to hear him say this about his brethren. But, the best was yet to come. "You should see the auto drivers in Mumbai. They are so disclipined. You don't even need to ask them whether they are willing to go somewhere. You just sit in the auto, and off they will go. However, here all these guys ask for one-and-a-half, 10 rupees more all the time. And most of the time they refuse to take commuters anywhere. They have absolute no sense of service." Having experienced the Mumbai auto drivers, I readily agreed with that fact of his. And Bangalore auto drivers are indeed notorious for not being all that commuter-friendly but are yet to catch up with their Chennai counterparts. "Sir, there are 2.5 Lakh auto rickshaws in Bangalore alone", he continued. Do you know why there are so many? "Poor bus service?", I ventured. "No. That is there yes. But most of these kids fail their 10th standard. Then they hang around doing nothing for a year. When the pressure at home mounts, they catch hold of some auto owner near their locality, rent it out and earn some 50 to 100 rupees. This has become a culture of easily being able to make some money in a day." "These auto drivers just want to idle away their time at auto stops. And we all get branded as being rude and irresponsible", he continued. "Sir, the government is also being quite stupid." "Why?" "These Tata Indica cabs cost around Rs 4.50 per km to run and for us auto rickshaws cost only Rs. 1.50 per km to run when on LPG. Yet, we are charging Rs 6.00 to customers like you. Isn't this unfair?" I always thought it was unfair. "But, wasn't it the auto association members themselves who wanted Rs. 6.00?", I bring out the old angst against these people who always hold the city under ransom when their demands are not met. "Yes, and those are idiots. If I am charging you Rs. 6.00 per km, should you not expect the same kind of service that a taxi driver gives you? The same kind of respect? These auto drivers don't treat customers well and yet they want Rs. 6.00!" Good point, I told him. "Sir", he continued, "auto driving has good money. We guys can easily earn more than government kelsa (government job). In fact today I put Rs. 150 worth of gas and have made a collection of Rs. 530 since morning. It is important to plan well at this age. Only good planning will help us in the future." "Yeah", I mumbled, finding it difficult to believe that an auto driver was actually speaking against a fraternity that is held so close by many of his peers. The rain continued to fall across the gaze of street lights which adorned the middle section of the sky. The vehicles were doing their usual honking and smoking bits. Around this time, while we were waiting at a traffic signal, a convoy came and halted right alongside us. The Honda CRV next to us contained the former CM of Karnataka, Mr. Dharam Singh. The reason why I use the word contained is owing to the size of this occupant, who resembled more of a cargo shipment rather than a passenger. "All these people are crooks, sir. This white car of his is because of our money. What did this guy have before getting into politics? And now they roam around with our money", the auto driver suddenly had his face dropping down in disgust. The earlier enthusiasm of talking about setting the auto rickshaw system right was gone and was replaced by a sense of despair. "Shouldn't the traffic cop at the signal give way to us? How come this guy is also stopping at the signal along with us?", I asked more as a question to myself. "He is in the opposition now, sir. Why will the traffic cop pay any heed?" "Still, he is the former chief minister after all. Shouldn't there be some respect shown?" "He has been given the red light on the top anyway. Isn't that enough?" As he said this and turned around with a flash of a smile, we both broke into laughter. The rain continued its drumming as we found a strange sort of comfort in the collective sarcasm of our laughter. Our sarcasm knew that in spite of all our remarks, it was always going to be us at the receiving end of the much talked about system . Yet, we were laughing at the irony of it all. And the rain seemed to pretty much nod in agreement with its repeated pattering.

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Blogger Avinash said...

Nice. Everyone in Bangalore would have met a nice auto driver. Everyone has a thing or two good to write about them. But its a few in their freternity that makes us not trust them.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Nagesh said...

Fundooooo Dhi,
You really met a very pragmatic Auto rickshaw driver. I am sure he won’t be driving Auto rickshaw for long. He is going to do something great in life.
Nice narrative style as always in your articles. I love to read these kind of articles in your Blog.

12:00 PM  
Blogger chinmai said...

nicely narrated

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one Dhi.. had a feel-good factor there:))


12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nicely written. Very enjoyable read.

4:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! This gentleman could give a lesson on Jana Seva to our politicians.
Well, narrated too!!


9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well written Dhi :-)
Glad to see you are back to your old (and beautiful) style of writing.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Prags said...

When I saw sucha long piece... I was like..should i even bother ;)
But yea... I loved it.

All these years in bangalore and I have never come across a pleasant auto driver..like this one.

Strange, interesting and nice!
And btw after reading ur blog..almost a year now.. this is my first ever comment on it !!

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dhimant,

Nice article..How's everything workinf towards the D day ? Read your post on Akshai! Didnt relaise he leftight away for his MBA.

Rest is fine. Ill be in Blore doe Diwali but wont make the D day for reasons Ill explain when we meet

3:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way you write gives a sense of ur affection for the city...some lines do get a bit weird,like when u describe the rain falling on the streetlights which occupy "the middle section of the sky"..but this piece was really good..a combination of fantasy and reality,with a satire intended on the system dat aint never gonna change.
And ya,I dont intend to tell you my name.

10:44 AM  
Blogger DhiOnlyOne said...

avinash>> True dude.

nagesh>> Thanks sir. And good luck :)

chinmai>> Thanks :)

ramanand>> Feel good factor yes. Was definitely a nice feeling to be there talking to the person.

kaacha>> What's up dude?

vijay>> Yeah, definitely. One of the reasons why the Lead India sort of campaigns should be taken to the grass root levels as well. Allow such people to have a say too.

prags>> Congratulations on the debut :) Haha.

Asti>> Dude, thanks. I came to know from the Devil (who is right now in Europe) about your plans to coming to India. Why not extend the stay or re-plan it man?

anon>> Sure :)

10:57 AM  

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