I left home 4 years back. Even when I was at home, my dad has never agreed on giving me a two wheeler, he was damn scared about me driving it, the roads I am driving on and the vehicle I could be possibly driving. So when I started my city hopping, I never had the luxury of a bike or a two wheeler and a four wheeler was out of question, I always had to use public transport. Of the cities I have been to, I have stayed in Hyderabad the maximum and as much as I have grown on the city, the city has grown on me. If there is one thing I would like to change about this city, it is the auto rickshaw drivers’ attitude. Yes, I know it’s a pan Indian scenario, but as far as I am concerned, it is in Hyderabad I had to travel by rickshaws the maximum and I must say it had made me a wiser man! There are some lessons I learned from bargaining with them, there is a knack of travelling in the rickshaws and there is a knack for getting the best price (yes it is an auction to a large extent) This skill I picked up in Hyderabad has helped me travel by rickshaws anywhere in the country without the fear of actually paying as much as the ric itself!
So here is my guide to travelling by auto rickshaws in Hyderabad:
# You remember that Chinese guy Russell Peters mentions in his show who tries to sell him a purse for $ 35? Well…the rickshaw drivers in Hyderabad are pretty much the same! They will try to give you the best price. They will try to convince you that by taking you for 4 kms for 200 bucks they are actually doing you a favour!
# When you stop a rickshaw, your glance should first go to the bar separating the driver from the passenger seat to see if there is that small thing called a ‘meter’. If it is not there, don’t even think about arguing, unless if you have no other better business in the world and you want to get amused.
# It is sad but true, try stopping a rickshaw whose driver is an old man because they say, the older generation is better and it is true to a large extent.
# If you find the meter is flying faster than a MIG airplane, do not have any qualms in stopping him right there, tell him his meter is almost ready to take off and walk away.
# In case you are in emergency, never…I repeat never let the ric driver know that! If you do, that’s it. Get ready to pledge your chain, ring and all possible items to pay him. This I learned the hard way. I was flying to Trivandrum from Delhi (the old airport). It was an Air India flight (I know, no good looking air hostess! Again sad but true) and since it was a domestic flight I went to the domestic terminal. The flight was at 6 and I reached the airport by 5.15. To my dismay, they tell me since it’s an Air India flight and the departure is from the International terminal and I had no effing clue where that was. I asked a rickshaw guy where it was, he said it’s quite far and I am gonna miss the flight! He said he’ll try taking me there and quoted an amount of 250 bucks. In that panic, who cares if it is 250 or 450! To sum it up, I was auto borne and he was not exactly racing or anything. 5 mins after that I see the board ‘International terminal – left’. Yes, I paid 250 bucks for 750 metres. And to make matters worse, the flight was bloody late!!!
# In case there are no rickshaws available and these guys do not agree to take you where you want for a decent fare, you know what I do? I ask the police man at the junction to get a ric for me. I call him Sir, make my face as if I don’t get a rickshaw now I will die of fatigue, that’s it, job done, any rickshaw will take you where you want as per the meter price.
Get into the rickshaw for whatever fare he wants, go till the nearest police station and ask him how much he wants?
# Ever tried offering a cookie or a fag to the rickshaw driver while he is driving? It has worked for me. Try being nice to him, he might reciprocate; again I repeat… he might.
# Ever tried preaching to the driver after you get in? Some of the best dialogues are:
“I believe in dignity of labour, you are doing your work and I am doing my work, money doesn’t come free to anybody. We are not policemen or politicians to get a bribe”
“I understand your predicament, but why make money by unfair means? 10 rupees extra I will give because I respect you and your profession”
These might work, if they do not, he is fubared (fucked up beyond any redemption)
# In case you are not going by meter and upon reaching the destination he starts saying this is not where you had told him to drop you and you have to pay extra for covering that extra 2 metres, there are couple of options to deal with it: (1) Keep the exact change and walk off (2) If he doesn’t give you back the money, sit in the rickshaw and say you are not leaving (girls be careful of that though) and (3) Argue till he thinks you are a cheap bastard and gives you back the money (let it be if he thinks so, its my effing money you nincompoop!)
# And last but not the least, there are some wonderful drivers out there, some of the best people I have met in my life are rickshaw drivers and sometimes I have been mistaken for one also (the mean one though). If you find a truthful and efficient driver like that, do not hesitate to tip him slightly more than the meter as we all know circumstances make a man and his circumstance made him a rickshaw driver and you the passenger.
Thus goes my journey…its keeps on going. I haggle shamelessly, I fight without thinking, I try to save every penny and if needed give him more than what he could earn in a day. All said and done, I share a very special bond with the auto rickshaw...