Those autocrats

Right in the Middle


I always had rotten luck. Put me on a 200 ft wide road with a banana peel and I’ll step on it. Give a bowl full of apples with a single rotten one, and I’ll reach out for the spoilt one. But the term ‘rotten luck’ has taken an altogether new twist with my brush with auto drivers.

I always seem to get the ones that reek of alcohol or smoke, grumble about the distance or demand double and even triple the fare, drive rashly, have a meter on fire, never have change on them, argue for 50 paise and even challenge me to take them to the police station! And when I hear stories of ‘good auto drivers’ returning forgotten purses or missed mobiles and even shopping bags, I almost laugh out hysterical. In my opinion, good auto drivers are an oxymoron.

After years of several bad experiences, including running from one pan beeda shop to another lugging a shopping bag in one hand and a wailing infant in the other, begging for change, I make sure I have my purse filled with every possible denomination, once I step out of the house. And you should see the look on the faces of the auto drivers when I hand them the exact change; fallen, crushed, at the thought of a missed opportunity to make a little extra. As if their ever-speeding meters did not rake them enough moolah already.

Their meters. They are always tweaked. How else would you explain the same distance costing you Rs 65 with one auto and whopping Rs 90 with another? The meters always seem to be on fire, changing exponentially with each blink. My eyes are always fixed on the meter, as if it had a mesmerising power. I once sat in an auto that changed from Rs 35 to Rs 45 directly. And when I confronted the auto driver, he smiled sheepishly and said his meter was faulty. Of course I paid him less.

If you ask auto drivers to take the shortest route, they look at you with disdain. When an auto driver asked me Rs 50 for a minimum distance, I told him to go wash his mouth. If it had not been for the persuading bystanders, we would’ve have ended up in a fisticuff.

They are always drive as if they were racing on an F1 track. They don’t seem to mind the ubiquitous potholes, wayward cows and dogs, the laden vegetable and fruit carts or the equally speeding co-vehicles, travelling nose to tail. I once asked an auto driver to slow down and he gave me look that said, “If you are so namby-pamby, don’t travel in autos!”

However petrified I am of the traffic, now I drive my own four wheeler, thumbing my nose every time I pass an auto.

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