Ways of autowallahs

Everybody has an opinion about Bangalore auto drivers which is mostly unflattering.

Bangalore autowallahs! Everybody has an opinion about them which is mostly unflattering. We all have a favourite autowallah story.

I know of someone who bought a vehicle in a jiffy just because he had come to blows with the autowallahs during his daily commute. Asking for Rs 10 or 20 extra is passe'. ‘One and a half’ or ‘double’ is routine. Dark and rains are conducive for cooking up a random figure which is guaranteed to make you swoon. If you dare to utter 'by meter', you are looked down upon with such disdain that you run the risk of losing all your self-worth. Tampered meters, (ill-) tempered autowallahs... the travails of Bangalore auto-commuters are endless. So much so that there are entire FB pages and discussion threads dedicated to issues around autowallahs.

Upright autowallahs are a rare breed. I hardly take autos, in fact I avoid them like plague. But a couple of times in a year, I have to be at their mercy. The last time I took one, I was in for a pleasant surprise. After I had declined 2-3 autowallahs for their unreasonable demands, one offered meter plus Rs 10. I accepted. On the way, as meter galloped, I wondered aloud if it was right. The driver then told me that he was a student who went to college by day and drove an auto in his free time to earn an honest living. He took me to my destination in just Rs 170. On return trip, I enquired the fare at pre-paid auto stand. It was Rs 220 for the same distance! This instance was an exception rather than a rule.

But there are times when I find autowallahs truly angelic as a rule and that’s when I am driving. They give the best directions as they are living encyclopedias of city roads. It's easy to ask them for directions because unlike cars, autos have no rolled up windows and unlike two wheeler drivers, they don't have to fiddle with helmets to hear what I have to say.

They are never ever rude. On the contrary, they are eager to help and many a time, have kindly guided me to the right road with a cheerful 'banni' (come) by driving ahead. They even oblige by walking to my car to hear me better. So, as soon as I am stuck for directions, I start looking for an auto. I am eternally grateful to the autowallahs of Bangalore for their navigation services.

Isn’t it ironic? When I seek their service as a customer, they drive me nuts. But when I have a non-economic transaction with them, they humour and pamper me. It kind of reaffirms one's faith in humanity!

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