I am a regular commuter of one of the best mass transport system in India, the BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) bus. Once in a while, as change to routine, instead of BMTC, I do go in Auto Rickshaw. This time it was on Sunday (12th October 2008), I was returning from N.R.Colony towards IISc, at around 7:20pm.
I generally 'request' autowallas, whether they are willing to come towards my destination of interest"? This I have learnt over the years that nearly 80% of the time, there will be destination mismatch, if you ask!! As an example would be, if you ask for Basavanagudi at KR Market, he would say 'Yashwanthapura' (for general information, Basavanagudi is in south Bangalore, while Yashwanthapura is in north Bangalore, with an aerial distance of about 8km between them). So instead of asking, I started 'requesting', thinking that at least request might have an impact on listener.
So, I 'requested' quite a few and the kind of responses I got were really cases for psychological studies. May be a doctoral thesis can be made on this subject. Some look at your face, from top to bottom, as though I spoke to them in Latin or like why this beggar is getting into my auto? or will he pay the money as he gets down? Other kind of response are like as though they have not listened to you, or releasing the clutch so that the vehicle moves and you should make out that he is not interested. Not to list only the negatives, there are some times overwhelming responses, with smile, and advising me that I should not 'request' and it is the very duty of every autowallas to carry a passenger where ever he wants to go and so on. In all these cases, I have no issues at all. But the kind of response, which I am narrating now, is really annoying and feel like taking them to task. For my request this autowalla responded, "ಮೀಟರ್ ಮೇಲೆ 20 ರೂಪಾಯಿ ಕೊಡಿ ಸಾರ್! ವಾಪಾಸು ಖಾಲಿ ಬರಬೇಕ್ಕಲ್ಲ, ಅದಕ್ಕೆ!!" (Translation: Pay Rs. 20 more on meter charge! as I have to come back empty!!). Though my fuse was blown out, I tried to convey him that I will not pay a single rupee above the metered charge, with stiff voice. One of the best demonstration of voice modulation and its utility can be given in such conversations. Probably going by my voice and native language, he accepted me into his auto, but started murmuring as I was about sit. I got down and said, "I do not want to create scene as I get down near IISc, more over I will not pay a single rupee more even if you do all kinds of drama there". He accepted me again and sat in the auto.
If there is any slogan that unites autowallas, then the above one can be rated as the best. There is one more to their slogan list, that is "ಒನ್ ಅಂಡ್ ಹಾಫ್" or "ಡಬಲ್" ಕೊಡಿ!! (Translation: pay one and half or double). Once, I just landed from Delhi at Yashwanthpur and 'requested' an autowalla for a drop at IISc (I walk down the distance from Yashwanthpur railway station to IISc, when I carry very less luggage, it is hardly 2km). He said Rs.80 for it. I lowered my voice and told him, I needed only his auto service and not his 'personal service'. I think he could not make out my wit there.
On the way, this autowalla started speaking about the problems of autowallas, family, traffic, commuters, police, tariff, meter, gas, potholes, etc. He was talking every thing under the sun and finally tying it with autofare. I do feel for the autowallas, but the issue here is about service. Since its being programmed that for every kilometer the rate is Rs.7, it includes the Gas, service, etc. There is not point in asking for more. I do not understand 'for going back empty' we have to pay. Money is given for the service provided and not for service anticipated!! If some one gives as TIPS, I have no issues. But demanding TIPS from all is unethical. There are people who are economically under privileged, for them going in auto itself is very demanding. In fact, if they reach the nearest destination from where BMTC service is available, they would go only up to that point. For them too, if Rs. 20 over the meter is asked, where is the ethics!?
Finally, I reached IISc. The meter read Rs.70, I paid the same and in addition gave him 'THANKS'.