Auto Encounters

The classic ones include tampered meters and boy, they fight and haggle like you are stripping their wives. I don’t know who takes panga - me or them, but I have always gotten away with my classic, “ bheekh mangna hai toh manglo." I will pay the extra fare only when you go down on your knees and beg, like beggars begging. There also this mixed breed who don’t travel by meter but by a fixed rate of understanding. Suddenly, they see a huge palatial mansion that you are standing in front of and the fare just goes up by 5-10 rupees or there is no change to return. 

Encounter 1
I know this friend of mine from Delhi who is an entertaining holds-a-conversation kinda person. Whenever we have gone out(always more than 4 people)he volunteers to share bum space with the driver and they have such animated discussions from familiarity to empathy and by the end of the journey the fare has come down by a smiling but small margin.

Encounter 2
I also have this amazing ex-roomie and good friend who is a diva in my reckoning. She cares two hoots when travelling in an auto. After our momo-eating jaunts, we flag a shared auto and she charmingly tells me to take the back seat, while she props herself next to the driver. I know what’s running in all your heads, no the driver is too scared to be distracted!

Encounter 3 and minor ones
I have seen very few Telugu auto-wallahs, most are old city dwellers or migrants from everywhere. There have been interesting conversations with some. There was this young guy from Jamshedpur, who had come here to save enough for his wedding. It turns out he lived a few lanes away from mine. There was another chap from Kurnool who had 3 daughters whom he sent to school and his wife ‘ran’ a kirana store. I remember giving him a packet of murukkus for Diwali from my shopping bag. It was like until we meet again. There was also this guy who thinks KCR is utter rubbish and that YSR's tragic accident just is not right.

Encounter 4
Then, there were those days when my colleague and I ran into lousy auto-guys whose meters were always bullying. We began interrogating each auto which stopped by if his meter is tamper-free. Then we met this gruff old man, who gave us an earful for doubting his dignity and self-respect. Very comfortingly, he told us, yes there are enough and more people who have tainted the profession and brought bad name by fleecing poor passengers for a meagre buck. But he sternly asked us to keep faith and that there are enough good Samaritans also. Yes, I agree.

Encounter 5
Once I had gone to Osmania University on a Sunday for an examination. In the morning, an old man dropped me. When I was collecting the change from him, he asked me if I had come for an examination. I said yes, he wished me best of luck and told me he’d keep me in his prayers. I was touched. That very evening, when I wanted to take an auto to the bus station, I met an impudent chap who coolly asked me to fish out 100 rupees. I know the station is barely 5-6 kms from there and it was less than 50 rupees. I asked him to pray tell me why the special treatment of asking double the rate. He shot back, “Sunday” and the blah. He refused to go by the meter and confidently told me that his meter would clock 60 rupees and he wanted me to pay 10 rupees more. Then, I lost it. I charged the poor fellow who only wanted to earn a quick buck. I asked him what drove him to even say that - was it because I don’t look south Indian enough and too foreigner? And you call yourself a hospitable Hyderabadi, wow! I blamed it all on him. He readily agreed to ferry me by meter, I told him I’d pay him ‘that’ 10 rupees extra if his meter told the 60 rupees truth. His meter touched only 42 rupees, he said sorry and promised to be meter-nice to anyone. Well!

Whew! Take a break :O)
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