Auto wallas – a tale of three cities

8 Jun

Photo by Puneet

Reader Update: Exceptional Delhi Daredevil photo above. Thanks Puneet.

My subjects today are the usually common people on the road who drive a ‘green’ and ‘ello’ vehicle called an Auto Rickshaw. My experience with this species spans three cities. Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. And I am keen to brand them basis their attributes and key characteristics.

1. Bangalore Badshah: The species in Bangalore can be termed as ‘Badshahs’. This moustached, no nonsense aristocratic breed are interested in going nowhere. The passer by is a fool, a lesser mortal, who was unable to purchase a vehicle. ‘Do the passer by a favour, give him a lift, ofcourse he will pay the autowallahs moneys. The money goes as a ‘dakshina’. Read a general situation to below to understand the case better.

Situation : 15 mins on the road – No Auto yet. Then I see a badshah coming towards me… I beg… Badshah stops… “Will you go .. Indira Nagar?” … cluck cluck … and the Badshah speeds away… makes no effort in using his god gifted voice… CLUCK CLUCK .. THAT’s IT …

2. Delhi DareDevils: Yes I am inspired by the IPL name… but then there is definitely a similarity in aggression. Although, none other. The basic tenets of their existence are aggression. supression. And that too without any mission. Some terms do not exist in the dictionaries of these species. eg: Traffic policeman, Meter, courtesy, Fear. More in situation below

situation: “Bhaiya, Ashram”. “Nahi Jaana”

“Bhaiya, Ashram”. “Nahi Jaana”

“Bhaiya, Ashram”. “Nahi Jaana”

“Bhaiya, Ashram”. “Chalenge”. “Meter se?”. “Meter nahi chalta madam”.”Accha, rehne do fir”. “Aap batao madam kitna dete ho? 40 de dena”. ” Nahi Bhaiya. 40 jyada hai. 20 hota hai”. ” Madam 35 de dena”. “Nahi Bhaiya, Jao”.” Thik hai madam, 30 dena hai toh bolo, varna jao”<aggression starts here>. I look around. No other Auto. “Thik hai. Chalo”<keep reading. it doesnt end here>

“Madam utro”. “Yahan nahi aage utarna hai”. “Wahan se koi mod nahi hai vapas aane ka. aap yahi utro”<supression starts> I succumb. OK. ‘huh’

And last

3. Mast Mumbaikars – Remembering them now. I feel glad.

Sincere. Open to learning new ways. Honest. Wonderful. They are the only hope in this black and ello world. The situation says it all –

Situation: Board tha auto. Command – “Bhaiya Santa cruz” …… zooom zoom and then

“Meter down… down.. down down down down…”

Hail Hope. Hail Mumbai!

Update: I cam across this wonderful post by another tortured fellow: click here to read a wonderful composition on Bangalore Badshahs

19 Responses to “Auto wallas – a tale of three cities”

  1. Rakesh June 8, 2008 at 12:14 pm #

    dunno about mumbai…
    but damn straight about bangalore
    and an understatement about delhi.
    auto-walahs please show mercy

    Though the prepaid counters are a good
    idea in bangalore .
    And in Delhi the meter never ever works,
    so its your rate against the driver’s.

  2. Aakriti Bhargava June 8, 2008 at 8:05 pm #

    Hey Rakesh, I am just one of the us tortured species, now if govt has to blame the increasing number of cars in Delhi.. the blame shud go on the auto walas.

  3. puneet makkar June 10, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    Some Good Delhi Daredevils.

  4. Nachiketa June 11, 2008 at 3:27 pm #


    have traveled in autos in Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad….

    so true about Delhi n Mumbai….. Hyderabad ones can be likened to the ones in Bangalore……..

  5. ankit June 11, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    So very true. Cant say about the Mast Mumbaikars, but Delhi Daredevils are absolutely like the way you have narrated. I like the simplicity of narration in your blog aakriti. Nice.
    Do keep updating it.
    Cheers !!!

  6. Anshul June 12, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    Get a car – if you you want to help people like you (and me)
    Get a bus – if you want to help zillions of others like you

    Let me know what you decide

  7. Vaibhav Gupta June 15, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    I guess harshness has been inflicted upon the Delhi Autowalas in this blog. I’ve little experience with the mumbai indian auto walas and no experience with the bangalore royal chalanger badshahs but would still take side of the Delhi autowalas. They are atleast open to haggling. Maybe the gender factor has come in, as in a male can show a lot more aggression and set his terms and conditions with the autowala, which might explain the writer’s bad experience. They know people will negotiate no matter what. Even if he’s charging the requisite amount, the cynical people would smell a sense of fobbing. Also, they are good entertainers. I’ve always tried to engage the drivers in some sort of conversation in order to passtime and mostly recieved a positive and interesting response. One of them even offered me to have lunch at his place. Yes, the meters never work. But all in all, I would give support Delhi ones.

  8. Anshul June 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm #

    Vaibhav – I am taking the liberty to respond (that is the power of blogging you see!)…Guess you are good in communication skills and have the gift of gab to talk with the auto wallas and get things your way to the extent of offer of a free lunch (wow!) but when you are using auto 4 times a day and also 7 days a week – I am not sure you have the free will of using right words or emotions of talking your heart to the auto waala…may be once or twice but not always…and why should you talk? is he doing a favor in commuting? I am paying money to him for his services …bottomline is – delhi Autowaalaas are far far from being decent in dealing with junta…they dont go by meter…they have the audacity if refusing too go anywhere at their own discretion (small distance – no WAY!)…they dont act as if they are in a democratic India

  9. Vaibhav Gupta June 17, 2008 at 9:24 pm #

    I guess you’ve had some forgettable experiences with autowalas…Well you’ve traveled a lot in auto and hence is aware of the nuances…I’ve not been much of a traveller, but I always try and remain cool with public transporters. Even while traveling in a bus, you might argue about the attitude of the conductor…People in delhi are rude on the whole…In any city that I’ve travelled, except mumbai, people generally mind their own business…You don’t find anyone stopping in the middle of the road just to teach others a lesson or two about good driving habits…And yes, why should we talk when there is a perfect professional relationship going on…But there is no harm in talking is it? I don’t think chatting with others is about returning a favor…And in the lunch offer which I got, the autowala was trying to prove that people generally charge more for the food which is not even comparable to what he gets at home…

  10. malesh ponnusamy June 28, 2008 at 1:22 pm #

    i thought the Chennai autowallas were the worst of the lot. Seems like we fare slightly better than Bangalore and Delhi!!!

    But there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. We rarely bargain for a piece of fashion wear in a mall. We read the tag, pay the price quietly and leave! Or for that matter dinning in a fancy rest. When it comes to people who are trying to meet their daily ends, we get into an aggressive arguments for charging us a penny extra! How sarcastic and insensitive we are, blinded by our consumeristic power.

    Try listening to their struggle in life, some of them are really genuine and moving. At the end of the day if it is not their own auto they have to end up paying the owner Rs.150 as rent and they need to fill petrol for the entire day which would cost them another Rs. 250 with the going rate of petrol from OPEC countries, and then there isthe house rent, family feed, school fees etc. He doesn’t have a blue collar job where he recieves a fat pay pack at end of the month. Everyday is a struggle, just try being in his shoes, and u will understand why he fights with everyone : )

  11. Aakriti June 28, 2008 at 6:54 pm #

    I have never been to chennai, so I may not able to compare. As far as prices go, I am ready to pay however much it costs reasonably ie by meter…. I am not arguing their state of living and conditions at all. But Boss, it hurts to pay en extra buck after suffering their insolence.

  12. Malesh Ponnusamy June 30, 2008 at 6:30 pm #

    🙂 Agreed. But give the poor guy a break. He doesn’t have a hefty bonus to look forward to nor an yearly appraisal. Does he ever have a retirement pension in place?

    All said and done, i think they need to be given a lesson or two in CRM 🙂 maybe HR firms can take up this initiative.

  13. Rajat Arora July 6, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    Contrary to your description of Delhi Daredevils, recently I’ve encountered autos which are as courteous as anything. I’ve written “Delhi Daredevils : An Update”. Read it to believe!
    Delhi Auto Wallas might be changing for good!

  14. Dharm August 16, 2008 at 1:32 pm #

    EXCELLENT post. no two ways about it. My 2 cents follow.
    Being a mumbai walla most of my life i didnt realise how god those guys really are. After moving to bangalore suddenly i came face to face with what a harassing experience it can be. I have even dedicated a post to the bangalore cabbies.
    Your observation is spot on.

  15. Aakriti Bhargava August 16, 2008 at 7:14 pm #

    Thanks Dharm, I have stayed in all these cities, and i sincerely believe that Mumbai ppl should be thankful to the autowalas in the city for their sincerity.

  16. Ankur Borthakur April 9, 2009 at 12:32 am #

    I have stayed in Bangalore and Delhi,and in these two places I have found the autowallas(though not all of them) to be the one of the worst in the country.

    Most of the Delhi autowallas meter is faulty showing neary 1.5 to 2 times the actual rate.I had a funny incident when the auto was in a red light for around 2 mins,the fare went from Rs 17 to Rs 31.When I complained,the autowalla told me that it happened for the first time that day.Fearing that I would complain to the police,he didnt ask me any money.however ,I paid him his due – Rs 17

    If you are travelling with the meter on and if you dont know the directions , you will be taken for a ride and end up paying more.Most of the time when the driver had agreed for meter ,he will pretend that he doesnt know the directions and would ask the passenger for the same,if the passenger dont have idea he will take the longest possible route.

    In Bangalore,the scenario is little different.Very few would agree to take you on meter.I use to travel to a place daily which is 2 km from the house,the fare comes to Rs 14.During daytime,I would be asked anywhere between Rs 25 to Rs 40,and during night it would be Rs 40 to Rs 60.I agree that during night ,as per the rules after 10 PM ,the fare is one and half times the meter,and I even offer them Rs 25 ,but paying 4 to 5 times is simply unreasonable.

    One of my colleague had an incident on his first day in Bangalore and his first auto ride here.Since ,it was his first day ,he preferred to take
    an auto from his guest house in Domlur to Bhagmane Tech Park near CV Raman Nagar.The autowallah sensing the guy is new to the place,demanded Rs 150 which he readily agreed.On reaching the office campus,the scenario changed.the autowallah demanded Rs 300 and started abusing in his local.My colleague panicked and have to hand him Rs 300.

    While Delhi autowallahs fear the police,the same is not the case in Bangalore.Everyone knows that the Bangalore police is biased.The autowalla will openly ask you to complain to the police,so you can sense that the police there for nothing.I use to travel daily to office by auto and I know about the situation here.While some of them are really honest,some others are really robbers ,just looting the passengers.Its very common the autodrivers demanding more money on reaching the destination ,specially if you are an outsider.

    I visited Mumbai a couple of times,and found the autodrivers to be honest and never asked me for more fare.

    • deepti July 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

      Ah..u just echoed my thoughts….i have stayed in all the three places….and am the victim of blore badshahs for past 2 years now….seriously..sometimes it feels they are some kind of long drive…and u might have to ask themm..bhaiyya jahan jaa rahe ho vahin chod do…shayad vahan se koi humare destination tak chodne vaala mil jaaye.,..:O….and whenever they are ready to go…madam meter se bees rupay zyada dene ka…are..kyun bhai…:O…at times the meter says 14..and these buggers ask u for 20 extra……actually i was having a discussion with a localite friend of mine and came to know..that these blore autovalas are basically people with land in nearby villages…so their primary source of income lies there…hence this unprofessionalism….

      Have had little exp with delhi daredevils..but ye Mumbaikars rock for sure….autovalahs their have dignity of labor…very particular in terms of monetary dealings…and the meter is always ready to go down….:)..Hail Mumbai!!!…

      Btw…i stumbled on ur blog after reading ur husbands tweet..:)…neat blog..:)…

      • Aakriti July 16, 2009 at 10:56 pm #

        A ot of people are victims to Autowallahs’ criminal acts… therefore I am planning to buy a car.. SOON 🙂


  1. Talking Talking » Blog Archive » Delhi Daredevils : An Update - July 6, 2008

    […] : An Update Posted by Rajat . Published on 06 July 2008 A couple of days ago, I came across a blog post, which told the story of the Auto Wallas of three cities – Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Although it […]

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