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The intricacies of Auto Rickshaws

by:John

Man, Auto Rickshaws, those crazy little half-breeds between a scooter, a car and cart are crazy lil’ machines. And, perhaps even more exotic and mysterious than the machines themselves, is the auto-rickshaw driver!

Auto rickshaws and crazy trafficThis is a picture of a popular down town spot. You can see how busy it really is. If you look at the yellow bumble bee looking vehicles, you will recognize… the rickshaw! (click image to enlarge)

In order to best understand the ways of the rickshaw, one must catch a glimpse of the habitat in which it dwells. The rickshaw flourishes in congestion thicker than an L.A. freeway at quittin’ time. It thrives in a carbon-monoxide haze and a sea of vehicles, all following their own rules to such a degree that the chaos itself becomes a bizarre form of order. They duck and weave through jammed traffic; flying through red lights and police check-points; skillfully swerving around myriads of pot holes, dogs, cows and pedestrians.
The rickshaw and its driver strikes fear in the hearts anyone who owns a nice, new or unscratched vehicle, and not only does this dreaded duo know this, but they use the knowledge to intimidate and command their way through the city streets. They are emotional giants and no amount of yelling at them will cause even the blink of an eye, so you can save your breath when you’re furious at their shenanigans.
And, when it comes to bargaining and finding a price, you’d best be on your guard. Let me share a couple of techniques we’ve encountered to help you understand what I’m talking about. The rickshaws come with a meter. This meter may work, or it may not, but about fifty percent of the time they say that it doesn’t. One trick is this: If we have taken the route before and know it to cost about 50 rupees ($1.00) by the meter, it is not at all uncommon for the driver to say that the meter is broken but that he will take us for 150 rupees. We, then respond with, “That’s ridiculous! We just came from there to here an it only cost 50.” His response will be something like, “Ok, 140.” And, we just walk away.
Another common trick is found at the end of your journey. It comes to 42 rupees, and you hand your driver a 50. You stand there waiting while the driver thanks you and begins to drive away. “Hey! What about the change?” His response? He will most often shrug his shoulders, look at you and say, “I don’t have change.” We’ve learned that whether they have it or not, they will say, “I don’t have change.” I’m sure plenty of white folks in the past have said, “forget it, it’s not a big deal.” And, the result is that they’ll keep trying it on us.
A third trick, and a particularly annoying one, is when you have an agreed price with a driver with no meter. We really try not to jump into an auto without a meter because of this sly tactic. What happens is that you agree to a price that you know to be fair. Usually, this price is just slightly higher than what you know it to cost on a meter so that the guy feels good about the price. He then, drives like Miss Daisy, at about 5mph the whole way. He coasts down every hill, the engine off, and just putts up the street on the road’s shoulder like his horse is wounded, or something. Naturally, it takes you 20 minutes to get to your destination which is only 5 minutes away. And, the driver, who was grumbling the latter half of the trip about how long the trip was, tells you that the agreed fare was not enough at the end. Rachel especially has a hard time with this one, because she doesn’t handle the conflict so well.
The last trick that we’ve encountered happened last night. It’s very similar to the one above but, slightly different. We used the meter, the guy said, “no problem, use the meter.” And, we were off. But, when we arrived at the destination and the meter said 45.00, he said 65. I was already going to give him a couple of extra rupees but this guy said I need 65, it’s the night time. Now, there is a rule that says, after 10pm, you should pay some extra rupees because it’s harder to get another passenger back to the busy parts of town. But, this guy knew where we were going and he agreed to take us there and didn’t mention a thing about extra money until we were there. I wasn’t upset, because I was used to getting this kind of treatment, and I don’t get upset about this kind of stuff. But, I was arguing with him.
I told him this and that about why I wasn’t going to give him any more money. I was speaking far faster than I knew that he could understand but, I figured it didn’t really matter. In the end, I gave him 7 extra rupees. Some guy on a moped, stopped and asked if I was having trouble (my guess is that he wanted to help me), but, I said, no problem and sent him away. Then, I left and the driver left. But, you know, I felt convicted after that. I believe that God would have had me speak more gently to that man. I still think that I was right in being firm about not giving him 20 rupees but, that I should have really been more kind in the way I spoke. Instead the tactic I used was to resort to the status of a foreigner and say, “I’m not paying you what you’re asking because, I don’t have to.” But, that isn’t the right answer. The right answer is that “I’m not paying you what you’re asking because it’s not right.” And that, must be said gently.
Yeah… it’s a tricky business this auto rickshaw stuff. I found a place to rent my own by the day. Wouldn’t that be something huh? I doubt I will actually do it, but we’ll see. Till then, I will keep on praying for the grace to deal with this exotic and mysterious breed.

2 Responses to “The intricacies of Auto Rickshaws”

  1. micah
    March 27th, 2006 01:03
    1

    My Tips for Rickshaws,

    Collect small currency from every transaction and exchange. NEVER pay in stores with exact change, pretend to only have big bills. Save the small ones for giving tips, rickshaws and to the poor. It’s the only way to pile up lots of small coins. This way you can pay exact Fair on rides.

    Always ASK the driver before hand if he has Change, if your in a culture where they lie about having change at the end of the ride, get used to asking to SEE the change before hand, but dont act too serious about it, have a good laugh when they wont show you, dont get offended at people who PULL away when you ask like this, they are not offended because you asked, they are offended because they believie they have the RIGHT to cheat you as a foriegner, seriously.

    ASK for the METER, have them RESET it when you get in ASK them to reset they may have reset it 2km ago and it will still show the minimum reading becuase the first charge alsts several KM usually. WATCH THEM RESET it.

    GIVE A TIP always, let the m know in thier language it is a TIP even if they are rude or mean. You are showing respect that as a FORIEGNER you recognize your ability to pay more, even if its not waht they ask. DONT give what they ask, give what your ready ot in terms of tips.

    In a dispute LEAVE the money on the seat and WALK away and thank the man, and mention the words HONESTY, and INTEGRITY, or JUSTICE in their language. POlitely. ?BE loving but dont fight too long.

    Threated to ASK the police to get involved, the police know what they do. They will help. The cab driver will NOT want the police to intervene.

    Sit near the door. IF a rickshaw driver takes you to a strange location and slows down STEP OUT quickly and ask him what is going on. In some cities they do this so GANGSTERS can jump in and sit wiht oyu and you are trapped and they take your money.

    Be friendly, ask them where they are from, how many brothers and sisters they have. They are most likely NOT from the city. Ask about that. It will be harder for them to cheat you afterward because you’ve shown you care.

    Pray for them, some of them are GREAT guys, not all are crooks. Pray for the crooks and the nice guys.

    What else.. thats a start I’ll post more as I remember them!

  2. RamanadhaReddy
    March 27th, 2006 16:21
    2

    This article to some extent helped me understand why I was so afraid of commuting in cities by an auto-rickshaw. Thank you.

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