Saturday, April 20, 2013

Adventures with auto rickshaws

Auto rickshaws are one of the primary form of motorized transportation around here. If you google "auto rickshaw bangalore", or ask someone in Bangalore about the autos, you'll get fairly pessimistic responses. "The drive won't want to use the meter", I was repeatedly told, "but you must insist!" and "Don't get in the auto if he won't use the meter!"

But, at the risk of jinxing myself, every auto driver I've used has automatically turned on the meter. I figured we'd just been lucky, which may be the case, or perhaps attempts to skirt meter use are more common in other parts of the city. I have no idea.

Today we went to Malleswaram to do some shopping after lunch. We had to walk a bit before we found an empty auto, but the first one we saw agreed to take us where we wanted to go, and as usual, switched on the meter. The shopping itself was excellent, and I just adore Malleswaram more and more each time I go there. Parts of it kind of remind me of Barcelona, of all the damn things. It's such an alive neighborhood, full of families out shopping, fruit vendors, bakeries (the scent of these reminds me powerfully of Mexico when I pass them) and cloth, cloth everywhere. Many streets have huge shade trees arching across them, and there are women sitting on the sidewalks selling strings of devotional jasmine. Have I mentioned that I love Malleswaram??

Anyway, after we did our shopping we got an auto back to the institute. But for the first time ever the driver didn't turn the meter on. We asked him to, and he did, but told us it would 20 extra. We said no, and he said he'd take us for Rs 100. The normal cost of this ride is Rs 50, so again we said no, and asked him to let us out. "80!", he said. "No, 50. We do this all the time, it costs 50", Robert replied as we piled out of the rick. "80!" said the driver again.

Luckily another drive had just deposited a family where we climbed out, and we asked if he'd go to the Tata Institute. He said he would, though he wanted more to take us through the campus. We were happy to have him drop us off at the New BEL road gate, so we agreed on 50 and set off.

About halfway there a tiny, black cat streaked across the road in front of us. The driver was immediately concerned, and looked back anxiously. Then he pulled over and stared at the place where he'd seen the cat. Finally he pulled all the way off the road, cut the engine, and jumped out. He walked back to the little median with plants in it and peered around for the cat. He asked some onlookers about it, and looked around some more. Eventually he came back, smiled at us and said, "Cat! On road." and spoke to a nearby auto driver, presumably about the cat. I found his concern for the animal very sweet...I can't think that too many cab drivers in the US would be that concerned for an animal they didn't actually hit.

And then we headed off again, and were safely deposited at our front gate. We still have a few more shopping errands, but our time here is rapidly running out.

So with that in mind, I think we'll head to Prakruthi for dosa tonight!

1 comment:

Kristofer Young said...

The cat's blackness was not an issue?
Love Dad