Monday, August 9, 2010

Commuters' strike: I am participating

This Thursday commuters -- the ones who take auto regularly -- plan a strike. I plan to offer my moral support by not taking an auto too on that day.

Did u people read Quadros' interview in the Mumbai Mirror: (He is the auto-drivers union leader). He says auto drivers are not slaves and they are also human or other such sympathy-milking statement. I do not think at all, for one moment, any commuter treats an auto driver as a slave. On the contrary, most of these fellows, with the biggest chip on their shoulders about the rest of the world, treat commuters like shit. I believe union leaders, like political parties, must create the idea of `the evil other' against whom they will protect you. For long, political parties in India have thrived on dividing and ruling, and are still thriving on that unbeatable formula that they inherited from the British. So, I am not surprised Quadros is making out like commuters are the evil ones who are making unnatural demands (He says what if the poor auto driver must sign off, or may have a problem at home..It seems 99 per cent of the auto-drivers are suffering some such malaise day in and day out. 24 X7 ?) .

Though I hate the idea of contributing to global warming by taking an auto (does a gas-cylinder auto also contribute to that?) instead of the BEST bus or the sardine-can trains, I still do it because commuting by public transport is becoming hell in Mumbai (The Borivli station has become a knee-breaking maze for me) I have been resorting to autos to go to Kandivli for music classes. Fare comes to a whopping amount.. which I won't reveal..
But the last one month I have discovered the worst side of auto drivers:
On every route, to-and-fro -- and I am not exaggerating,  they would agree to come, then mid-way, they will flag another auto down and tell me, some even acting with tears in t heir eyes(!!), that the brake is broken, something is cracked up, they are on reserve and whatever else they mumble ...
I realised the pattern: since the traffic police drive against auto-drivers has become strict, these fellows are making up this ruse, so somebody who looks militant like (note those muscles?) does not call the police control room to complain .. otherwise how come on six trips continuously I have been dropped midway and shoved into another auto?

So now, before getting into an auto I tell them that this trick has been played out before me and so to kindly spare me a repeat... Its been working, touchwood. I have gone in one auto for the entire trip ..

However, before that, once, I had to change thrice!!! On the second leg of this eventful  journey, this auto driver suddenly says he won't come to Pali because I said Linking Road before I said Pali. What!! I told him that some northern suburban auto-drivers do not know where Pali is, so when you board an auto you give them the destination broadly (Like Bandra West, Or Linking Road) then lead them more specificially to the exact location. And Pali Village is off Linking Road, it is two shops off KFC, yet this fellow says he won't turn right to take me to my home because  I had said Linking Road first. He said I was doing a BIG WRONG!! (I think you can guess where this sort of behavior comes from -- the sort of propaganda which keeps drumming into their heads that they are the victims of the commuters and must be protected from them? Otherwise what would union leaders do for a living?)  So I completely forgot that I am aspiring for monkhood and world peace, then bristled and told him to stop the auto. I told him:" Please stop. I rather walk then travel in the vehicle of an adharmic person like you... Here is your money." Then I walked a long long while in anger at my own anger, stomping to cool it off, before I flagged another auto driver.

And btw. If you are smart enough to buy your own auto meter fare card, you will catch on that it is very different from what they have. The auto fare on their meter is a round figure. For instance, if the meter comes to 178, it wil show 180 and so on... This is something Value Added Tax, I guess. If hotels do it, why not poor driven auto fellows who just want to say they are not slaves?
What happened to my beautiful Mumbai of yore, where auto drivers gave back money, or often told you to keep the change (if you did not have one buck, they will say, chalta hai!!). I used to love Mumbai for its auto drivers. But Chennai is worse, a nightmare .. Delhi as bad I suppose. So I guess I am destined to put up with autowallah's khunnas and forget I have any rights of my own...


Does it matter said...

Ha ha..

You really have gone through experiences with these guys. There used to be a time where yours truly used to get very worked up with these guys - when they would refuse to ply, when they would have a grossly tampered meter, etc. etc.

Now, I have kind of reconciled.

When the whole country is being run/ managed/ controlled by the corrupt and inefficient (read the Govt, Business folks, Bureaucracy, Law Makers, Law Enforcers), why grudge these guys.

Why pick on them alone, because they are so easy targets. We cannot do anything to the powerful - and we need these (comparatively) poor folks to disprove our impotence.

Well.. you might feel that yrs truly is a perfect example of the chalta hai attitude prevailing in the country, but.... But, I feel these poor people learn from what they see around them.

I often wonder why there has not been a bloody revolution in this country with these inequities that we have.. Atleast these guys are still doing a honest job - albeit a little dishonestly! With the quality of life they live, it is a miracle and a testimony to their tolerance!

Ofcourse I still wonder why a certain gentleman from the Mee-Nutcase-Sena has not yet jumped into the fray -- to answer your question of why Bombay auto walahs are not like that of earlier... he will surely say, it is because they come from you-know-where!!

Hmm, it does not take too much effort to give a political/ regional/ religious twist to ANYTHING here...

All the best for the Thursday boycott!!


Shameem Akthar said...

That's a humane way to see it and I agree with that when I feel somewhat monkish. See I am not worked up so much about the tampered meter.. but about the attitude man! Why say no just because something about my hair pisses him off? Even while I was pregnant, that's about 18 years ago, I recall that I would have to walk for yards -- with a huge stomach.. Ok, I was working off some karma (in my past life I was an auto driver who refused a pregnant lady a ride, that's why:). Still in this life, why they refuse, I wonder .... I can imagine a corrupt politician, bureaucrat and a whover will not say no to money just because he has a chip on his shoulder. This guys say no just for the heck of it... And I bet you drive a car, esp since u are not a journalist ...