I have been using Autos for as long as I can remember. Yes, I know, you probably think am crazy! I also use the bus and local trains to commute within the city. The very 1st time I got into an auto was in 8th standard.
[Image courtesy: Chennai gaga]
It was pouring and school had let out, but there was no familiar car or driver to pick me up. And so, I decided to walk home [I couldn't think of any other option and nearest was grandparents house, about a km or so]. Half way through Taylors road, an auto pulled over and he said he would drop me home. I don't remember having any money on me [I dint get pocket money at all]. He said no worries, took me home and dropped me off. The meter read Rs 3.50 p. I asked him if he could wait so I can go inside get the money, he declined and said he will wait till I get home. To my plight, there was no one at home. He then offered to drop me off at my parents apartment in Harrington road and again charged me nothing!
And then there are those who close their eyes and quote an amount with no idea of where I want to go, or how far the destination actually is. These are the guys that piss me off. I haggle and show the finger at times, sometimes the guys just follow me and try to haggle, sometimes they go on and on about the cost, and distance, and how he will not get a return fare and blah blah.. There have been numerous times where I have actually told the guy "Anna, neenga pinnadi ukkarunga, naan otarein [you sit behind, I shall drive], or when the guy ask for the sun and the moon, I tell them Am not looking to buy the auto, just want a ride.
Off late, I have started using Bus and train wherever possible and it is easy, except when I have a meeting or am headed somewhere new or far. And then there are days when I settle for a call taxi, they are cheaper and I get to ride in style!! :-)
Few months ago, one day I read about Namma auto on the net and heard from a friend who used them that they were really good. We were in Sterling road and she had to get back home [ near Chrompet]. We decided to try the Namma auto, a lady answered the call, took the booking and the auto arrived within 25-30mins. The lady called multiple times to enquire if the auto arrived and even after it did, she called to make sure my friend was alright. Apparently, she called an hour later to check if my friend had reached her destination and get feedback on the ride. Friend was impressed and happy that she did not have to haggle or suffer but decided to go back to cabs as the distance was too long to handle an auto ride. Nearly 30-40kms!
Back to my auto saga, I have had interesting experiences- Once I rode in an auto driven by a guy who is a Kirigami expert, and only one in the country. He shared his entire story which i shared on Facebook and it went viral.. I mean so many people wrote back saying they had contacted him, he was featured in the papers, and recently I met him at an art exhibition. He now drives auto once in a blue moon only and is busy doing workshops!
Another time, the driver told me about his parallel life where he wrote fiction pieces in a Tamil weekly magazine. He wrote under a pen name and shared the story of how his wife's death inspired him to start writing. I have also had auto rides where the guy told me about losing his entire fortune and driven to riding autos.. Another time was an old man who was frail and old, who said his sons had left home, and he had no support and so took to auto driving.
I have also travelled a bit within the country and used autos elsewhere. Bombay, Pune are towns where the auto guys charge by meter, Bangalore used to be like that but then now they also quote a random price. Jaipur we realised the meter is slowly dying and guys are starting to fleece people. In the 5 days we were there, only one guy had a meter and charged by that.
Fast forward to last month when news of auto meters was buzzing in the air. There was talk about calibration of meter, rolling out new meters and all this will be in effect shortly. And yesterday, there was a news item in the paper about the Meter coming into action! I like many others was skeptical, wondered if the guys will follow it or put up a fight.
I left home , hailed an auto and the guy just said "polam" madam. I hopped in and just as I was about to ask about the meter, he turned it on and said "pottacchu madam".. I was impressed! Got off at my destination, paid to nearest round, and he offered change as well. I was still skeptical, but again in the evening when heading out to the meeting, once again had the same experience, he charged by meter. Now I was convinced!!
One of the autos I travelled in yesterday did not have a meter. The guy did tell me "madam, will note the distance and you pay accordingly". He mentioned that you needed a ownership card to get a new meter and since he dint have one, he had to wait to get a meter. The card can be procured through a broker, but will cost him nearly Rs5000, so he is going to take the direct path and dig deep to find the documents and get the card. The last date for submitting the card was Sep 15th, so he was scared about cops locking his auto away. But hoped he could buy some time to get things sorted out!!
Once again, I shared the pic of a meter and wrote about it on Facebook and had zillion people commenting, some skeptical and others surprised. Quite a few also shared it on their walls. Goes to show how important the autos are to the city and what a revolution this meter will cause!
And today morning, once again I had to step out, and hailed a cab and the guy had a meter and turned it on the minute I hopped in. It showed Rs 41.50, I gave a Rs 50 and he gave me Rs 10 change.. While I fumbled for change, he nodded and drove off.
This was a convo from a friend's facebook wall..
Yesterday, I kicked up a conversation with an auto driver who said he had to spend Rs 2100 to get the new meter. Apparently, the Government meter is not available everywhere but there are cops bringing it down on autos without meters, so this guy had spent out of his pocket and installed the meter. He said the only difference between this one and the Govt meter was the later would give a bill print out at the end of the ride. He also shared some interesting insights-
1. The meter will be detrimental to those who dont know where they are headed. Who are clueless and are searching for a place
2. The meter is good because we auto drivers know how much distance we cover for a ride
3. The meter will be painful for passengers who think the destination is close by but is infact further away
4. The meter is going to be painful for passengers because unlike earlier where auto drivers charged a fixed rate, but then with meter you will charged for waiting [even in traffic signals]...
Today, I came upon a list of helpline numbers, which I have once again shared on my Facebook wall...
A company has created an app through which people can figure out the fare between 2 points. It is very useful and as of now available for Android phones only. You can download it from the play store or visit the website chennaiautofare.in
Do share your experiences!! Have you travelled by an auto with meter or did you still come across guys haggling?