If you don’t own a car in Delhi and commute to places not well connected with Metro, you must be hiring auto-rickshaws frequently. At least I do that. And for some reason I’m very skeptical of the auto drivers; I feel as if the only motive of their existence is to fleece me. When they tell me a fixed fare to some place, I insist on going by the meter, and when they offer to start the meter, I start suspecting that the meter must be tampered and hence insist on a fixed fare.
In fact, I‘ve measured a distance between two landmarks in my area through which I always pass to go anywhere in Delhi, and if the distance recorded by the meter (in multiples of 100 meters) is more than what I know, I immediately start arguing with the driver accusing him of having a tampered meter. Finally we settle on a fixed fare to our destination.
In case you don’t have such landmarks or known distance, you can use another shortcut to argument that I use. When the auto reaches a smooth traffic zone (I know that’s a very unlikely scenario in Delhi, but hope and pray it does) keep an eye over the meter and see how soon the meter reading changes i.e. number of seconds it takes to record 100 meters.
One can safely assume that an auto-rickshaw won’t run faster than 50-60kmph on Delhi roads in normal traffic. That means that the meter shouldn’t change its reading before 6-7 seconds. For a speed of 40kmph, which is more likely on many Delhi roads in “more normal” traffic, it shouldn’t change earlier than 9 seconds. If it’s changing more frequently than that, you can start arguing with the “cheat”.
But of late I’ve realized that not all of them are cheats. In fact, most of the times the distances recorded by their meters are completely in harmony with the one I found out using my friend’s car and Google maps and their meter reading doesn’t change as frequently as my heartbeats.
In such a scenario, filled with guilty conscience, I start talking with them to befriend them, and trust me, they come up with real good pearls of wisdom many times.
For example, once an auto driver told me that he could never understand why the British rulers never shifted the capital of India from Delhi to some “better” city permanently even after ruling for over 100 years.
“yeh bhi koi shahar hai saa’b, na garmee dhang se padti hai na thandi, upar se chor uchchakke har jagah, woh dekho!” he said, pointing to a traffic policeman (roughly translated: what kind of city is Delhi? Neither the summers nor the winters are enjoyable here, and add to that dishonest people like him).
“yeh saale angrez toh padhe likhe the, phir yeh galti kyun kar di (Those British guys were educated folks; why did they commit this mistake)?” he asked, for which I had no answer.
(Rahul Roushan aka Pagal Patrakar is the editor of the leading Indian news satire website Faking News . You can connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook )
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