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“Zen and the art of autorickshaw riding” OR “Simply taken for a ride”.

December 7, 2010

This time around  I had to use the auto rickshaw in Colombo. Though people mistake me for a Sri Lankan, my inability to speak Sinhala makes the drivers of the ‘three wheelers’ as auto rickshaws are called in Sri Lanka, see quick bucks written all over me. But this is nothing compared to the fleecing their counterparts in Chennai manage out of me.

The dictionary defines the auto rickshaw as a light three wheeled vehicle run on motor cycle engine. What it leaves out is that these three wheeled contraptions defy all laws of physics or any kind of law for that matter. The autorickshaws always remind me of cockroaches- it is said that the cockroaches need just a space of 1.5 mm to hide their body; similarly these three wheelers need just a gap to weave in and out of traffic. It is another matter that their movement resembles that of a roach sprayed with Baygon.

Anyways the auto (as auto rickshaws are known in Chennai) drivers are great logicians.

Ask them why they charged exorbitantly, they say ‘look at the traffic’. When we take their services in the night when the traffic is thin they still demand exorbitantly and  say it is the night time charges. Likewise when you come out of the railway station with a couple of baggage not counting the wife and children they say ‘you have luggage’ and when you have no ‘luggage’ they say so what, if the vehicle can take you they can also carry your baggage.

 I tried once to beat their logic. I asked the auto driver with whom I was haggling for a reasonable fare, “Do you know how far it is to Delhi”? “No”, he replied. “About 1750 Km”, I said with a smug look on my face. Then I asked him, “Do you know the air fare to Delhi”? “No”, he replied knowing fully well where this was heading. “Three thousand five hundred”, I said stressing on all the syllables and letting it float for it to sink into him. “This means the airlines charges me just Rs.2 for every kilometer whereas you are demanding Rs. 180 for this 12 km trip which will work out to Rs.15 per kilometer. “Don’t you think it is unreasonable?” I continued expecting him to fall at my feet and request my forgiveness. Instead he looked at me as though I was a retarded person and asked, “How far does the plane tyres stay on the ground in the journey to Delhi? I did a quick calculation and replied “3 to 4 Km. “And how far does my auto tyres on the ground for the 12 km, he asked again. “12 km if you don’t count the few kilometers you fly when you hit a speed breaker”, I replied with a deadpan face. “See”, he said, but I didn’t see anything. “The entire trip my wheels are on the ground, is it too much, what I am asking for?”  Who can counter such irrefutable logic?

Then there is the classic one. You should hire an auto only from the ‘stand’ even if they charge Rs.30-Rs.40 than the guy who is returning after dropping a fare and who tries to be reasonable. The stand or the auto stand is the road corner where about 7 to 10 auto drivers park their vehicles and gossip the whole day after they have fleeced a helpless victim and made the day’s killing. And why should one engage an auto only from the stand? Because if you lose something in the auto you get into from the stand, it can be traced easily. The extra amount is just a small premium for insuring against losing your valuables. Pretty neat. Isn’t it? Anyways the ‘stands’ are helpful in decreasing accidents. As they are strategically located, they prevent clear view of the oncoming traffic from the other side that invariably everybody has to slow down thus avoiding accidents in the cross-roads.

All said and done I had the satisfaction of getting even with one of them. It was immediately after the petrol prices were increased by Rs.5. As I waved down an auto and told the driver where I wanted to go, he demanded Rs. 50 more than what I would normally pay. “Petrol vela yeri pochu saar” (The prices of petrol has gone up sir) he said. Evalavu ruva yeri pochu? (How much has it gone up by?) I asked. Anju ruva saar (Rs.5 ) he replied. “Evalavu mileage tharum unga vandi? (How many kilometers will your vehicle run on a litre of petrol?) I countered. “Irupathu kilometer”, (20 kilometers) he answered. “Apadina oru kilometeriku irupathanju paisa kuda tharaen, pathu kilometeriku rendu rupa aimbathu paisa agum”,(which means it will be addition of Re0.25 per kilometer and Rs 2.50 for 10 kilometers) I said. He took me in without uttering a word and flagged down the meter. For once he had met his match.

But if you want to have a hassle free ride on a auto you need to find Rajnikanth, because only he says,

I am autofellow autofellow
Four knowing route fellow
Justice having rate fellow
Good people mix fellow
Nice singing song fellow
Gandhi borning country fellow
Stick take means hunter fellow
Big people’s relation fellow
Mercy having mind fellow da
I am all poor’s relative fellow da
I am always poor people’s relative fellow da
Achak means achak only; Gumuk means gumuk only
Achak means achak only; Gumuk means gumuk only

Town become big, population become big
Bus expecting, half age over
Life become hectic in time, exist in corner of street
Ada eye beat means love coming they telling
You hand clap means auto coming I telling
Front coming look, this three-wheel chariot
Good come and arrive, you trust and climb up
Mercy having mind fellow da
I am always poor people’s relative fellow da
Achak means achak only; Gumuk means gumuk only
Achak means achak only; Gumuk means gumuk only

Mummy motherfolk, danger not leave
Heat or cyclone, never I never tell
There there hunger take means, many savoury
Measurement food is one time
For pregnancy I come free mummy
Your child also name one I keep mummy
Letter lacking person ada trusting us and coming
Address lacking street ada auto fellow knowing
Achak means achak only ; Gumuk means gumuk only
Achak means achak only ; Gumuk means gumuk only

This is the English translation of  the following song

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2010 18:46

    Just came by to tell you again how much I enjoyed re reading it 🙂

    Your translations skills are out of this world 😆

    Mummy motherfolk, danger not leave
    Heat or cyclone, never I never tell
    There there hunger take means, many savoury
    Measurement food is one time
    For pregnancy I come free mummy
    Your child also name one I keep mummy
    Letter lacking person ada trusting us and coming
    Address lacking street ada auto fellow knowing
    Achak means achak only ; Gumuk means gumuk only
    Achak means achak only ; Gumuk means gumuk only

    Lord!!!

    • December 12, 2010 15:53

      Ush Thanks but no thanks 🙂 The translation is not mine. I received this as an e mail forward and don’t know who the orriginal author is, to give credit for.

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