Sunday, May 18, 2008

How to address a Bengaluru Auto driver

Whenever I stay in Bangalore, Sheela's brother most graciously ferries me around in his car to wherever I want, which is nice of him, but has deprived me of some very important insights into human nature, a very specific sub-species of humanity known as the Bangalore Auto Driver (BAD). This time, owing to his being busy, I volunteered to get around by myself on autos. He warned me, saying that it is a thing not easily mastered by novices, but I decided to take the plunge. Hence this report.

At the outset, let me clarify that, despite all the cynical and adverse publicity given to the BADs by various writers, the BAD is actually part of the homo sapien species. The seemingly aberrant behavior, surly countenance and reluctance to perform any kind of beneficial economic activity such as taking people to their destinations is simply an acquired evolutionary feature and should be understood as such. This account is intended to guide the reader in his or her interactions with the BAD

First, unlike in Mumbai, one does not get in to the auto and bark out one's destination, just like that. I don't exactly know what happens if one does that, but no one's ever tried it and survived. Perhaps the auto driver slashes your throat. Even the question puts the shivers into most Bangaloreans. What you do is go humbly to the rickshaw driver, avoiding eye contact at all times, and request him to take you to your destination

"Chalukya Hotel?"

Note that I do not use any more words than necessary. Even the question mark is implied in the intonation.

The responses to this question can be one of several.

Sometimes even this innocuous question, possibly because you haven't asked it with sufficient humility, results in a little tirade, conveying the auto driver's views on the despicable nature of Chalukya Hotel as a destination and of you as just the kind of low life who WOULD want to go to places like that.

Do not be disheartened. He does not mean it. Even if it does, he does not mean you any harm. Withdraw from his august presence with head bowed at all times and walk backwards till you are a respectable distance away. See for instance the movie Mughal-e-Azam for guidance to proper obsequiousness. You will find it in the courtiers approaching the Emperor Akbar for minor favors such as commutation of a death sentence.

Often, the auto driver also adds a sarcastic barb, pointing you out to other auto drivers as if to say "Look at this loser. Chalukya hotel! His father ever went to Chalukya hotel or what?" and ends it with a bit of raucous laughter.

Choke back those rising sobs and hold back those tears. The auto driver might not take kindly to drama gima.

However, there are a few auto drivers who are very sweet and nice about the whole thing. These are the thinkers, the Socrateses among the pack, people who have realized the futility of life, people who will feed dumb animals and give alms to the poor. If you are fortunate enough to meet one of them, he will smile in a saintly manner and with a look of infinite sadness tell you that he cannot come to Chalukya hotel. He doesn't tell you why but you can guess it must be something grave. Probably promised his dying grandmother he would never got to Chalukya Hotel.

Where, one might ask, do these guys all want to go? That, dear reader, is one of life's great mysteries. Perhaps, like great sages, the great BADs are here for a purpose us ignorant people cannot fathom. Perhaps it's just our sheer inferiority that puts us out of contention for receiving favors from them. Perhaps you'll have to climb a few Himalayan mountains scouring for wise men who can tell you the answer. But one thing is abundantly clear. What they are definitely NOT here for is to go to Chalukya Hotel


Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Very nice one! It happens here all the time!!

Anonymous said...

Here is a joke my 2nd edition told me:
"What is the name of a bald young girl in a rickshaw?"
Ans: "Auto-main-takli."
Great post!


The BADs sound saintly to me. An experience with auto drivers in Chennai is sorely called for to show how GOOD BAD really are.

Anonymous said...

haha, i wonder what you'll write when you discover MADs- Madras Auto Drivers!

Vidhya said...

Nice post. I have often had to plead with the auto drivers to get to my house... I say "HSR Layout", the auto driver shakes his head like a pendulum, almost feeling and giving me the "You actually stay there??!!" kind of look, but quickly adding 7th sector eases things a bit. But he finally gives in only when I agree to pay 1.5 times the meter charge!! Actually being an autodriver in Bangalore is a pretty lucrative business.

But I find the "BADS" infinitely better than the "MADS"

V said...

hahahahaha.. you gotta throw in a couple of kannada words man.. it used to make a difference back then, i don't know how it works now... i can't count the number of fights i've had with those guys...

Nandini Vishwanath said...

True! However, I walk with looking at them with disgust and comment on how they are supposed to go anywhere the passenger wants to go. Atleast, my ego is not bruised :D

Yes, Chennai autodrivers deserve a book detailing the lingo they use, and the lingo you 'can' use with them (note, not 'against' them. 'With' them.)

Sud said...

I am also told that to get around in Banglore these days, one needs to be able to speak in the local languages - Java or C

Cynic in Wonderland said...

...not to mention the ghat fellers in ole pune. i find taking autos in mumbai SUCH a pleasure these days . had posted about sometime back and am plugging post here ( hehe darn cheap no?

how was mysore and bangalore?

Okie Dokie said...

Missed youuuuuuuuu! In any case Bads and Mads are cruel.

Superficial Gibbering prater said...

Wrt to the BADs ,there is one cardinal sin that one should not commit ,that is to say ,"Majestic" on a friday evening.He will give you a sort of look which says,"what you Fool ,are u calling me to Die??"

Bikerdude said...

Hehehe poor you. Here are two standard issue retorts to BAD surliness:

(1) YOU: Banshankari?
BAD: Shakes head.
YOU: MG Road hogtheera? (Will you go to MG Road?)
BAD: Nods.
YOU: Sari, Hogi matte(OK, go then)(walk away)

YOU: Kaval Byrasandra 44th stage?
BAD: Rs.4500
YOU: Nimmannella olag haaki kambi yenisabeku (You and all inside putting and making to count the bars)
BAD: String of expletives about all the things he will do to you.
YOU: Aith 4500 kottu neen yen bekadre maadko (Sure, give me 4500 and do what you like).

Poojitha said...

He he..gud one..BADs can be annoying...but heres d strategy i use..

Me: Bhaiya..Auto(since its in hindi..he stares)
next attempt
Me: Boss..Auto coming??
Automan thinking about how much higher he can charge..
Me: Anna..Auto varuma??(since its in tamil..he gives me a thought..and says a rate which is normal + 25rs)
Me:(last attempt in the only kannada word i know) aah...beda beda..(means NO NO i hope!)
Automan lowers the rate by a minuscule 10% just bcoz of the kannada words..

Though this doesnt work all the time..i keep tryng... all the same.. useless to bargain in this city!

PREETI said...

Yea the MADs...Tsk tsk..even badder and madder than the BADs...tsk tsk...

And yeaaa!! Missed u!!! Welcome back!

narendra shenoy said...

Thanks all. I'm back in Bombay and nose to old grindstone and all, but I had a great time in Kabini which I'm planning to write about. Got some great snaps too.

By the way, Bikerdude, made the pilgrimage again to the great underpassu. Also saw the flyover. Mysterious are the ways of the Corporation. And I'm also getting a crash course in Kannada cussing. I've mastered the "Yay-know, mugganay" in full menace.

maxdavinci said...

@naren: how didya get to chalukya hotel in the end?

@bikerdude: tum patthar ho! (you rock)

Pri said...

see you must pull out ominous looking little black book and write down license plate of the auto and walk off dramatically. this often worked for my mother but we're talking like a decade and a half ago. i have a feeling if one attempts such things now one will only provide amusement to the stand.

my favourite type of automen: the mid afternoon napping kind [you do not want to mess with them], the "allinda kaali barbeku madam" kind, the "main road alle bitbidtheeni" kind. sometimes the automan will so kindly yell "next" and point me in the direction of the next auto. sometimes he might even repeat the destination to the other dude. this guy will in turn ask the next guy who will ask the next. this usually ends in group laughter once it has been established that no one is willing to go anywhere near said destination.

V said...


"Nimmannella olag haaki kambi yenisabeku "

aurannella olag haaki 'aeroplane' hattisbeku, kambi yenisodu tumba easy aiytu... (too crude to translate, sorry..)

Praveen G K said...

Mr. Shenoy, I am sure the autodrivers in Bangalore are not as bad as Madras; If Bangalore auto drivers are BAD, then Madras drivers are surely MAD :-)

AlwaysHappyKya said...

LOL! Well written.

So, was it 'paada yatrey' to Chalukya Hotel for you?

During my 2 yrs in bengaluru, my experiences with BAD have mostly been Okay ( if not good ).

One thing I know is, talk in fluent kannada and they spare you from all the raucous laughter and throat slashing ;-)

Dee said...

hahahhah... gr8 post...

Alapana said...

Hahaha,now imagine, in this city of Bangalore i have a regular auto fellow who drops me to the office and picks me up and in case i am stuck somewhere i just give him a call and if he is near by he comes to pick us up and sometimes my friend avails the service too by asking him to come at 4am to drop them to station and he obliges:))) Haan, but the day he is not there i am done,i better walk home:(

Usha said...

True this is a city where the auto rajas don't want to go where you want to go but expect you to go where they want to go.
"What they are definitely NOT here for is to go to Chalukya Hotel"
Or Jayanagar or citymarket or Basavanagudi or MG Road or Bannerghatta Road.
I think they want to go only to Koramanagala.

Anonymous said...

Nice post.
I have an experience to share.
A friend(from jammu) asked an auto driver if he would go to Forum(a very famous mall in bangalore). the driver said "No". My friend was surprised and a little irritated. He irritatingly asked the driver - "jammu chaloge?". The driver kindly said - "Sir, airport chhod sakta hun:-) (Sir, I can drop u to the airport.)"

Gugi aka Gogoush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gugi aka Gogoush said...

So sad that such an article has been written about BADs. The shame of it ya! Am totally agreeing but I have to say that old blr auto drivers were so nice! 2 instances of sweetness, latter as late as 2003, are listed:

1.Frend and I get into auto outside college, nice song from recent hit hindi movie playing in auto, house comes off before song ends, collective sigh from passengers in auto; auto driver insists we listen to song and only then leave and waits.

2.Your's truly misses office bus and takes auto to next bus depot in kmgla, realises only Rs.20 are available, tell auto driver to stop when meter shows Rs.20, driver says why? yours truly gives reason. auto driver shakes his head and says what ma, for some 2-5 rupees what is there, i will take you, don't get down.

Evil eye has been cast upon BADs i say!

10yearslate said...

Win them with kindness I say.

Having used the MADs more, I cultivated one or two of them from the stop near our house and made it a point to ask for one or the other at the stand. Word goes back and in short order I had their mobile numbers. Once this was achieved life is a dream.

On those occasions where I had to catch an auto from say Usman road to the salubrious part of South Chennai I lived in (accompanied by glint in the eye of MAD when destination was announced) I employed a soft and empathetic tone when the outrageous sum was quoted, sometimes walking away with a conciliatory 'irukkattum vittudunga' often engaging them on matters close to them such as driving in monsoonal downpours, kids education etc.

At the risk of sounding saintly (which I ain't) I found that the human touch works well everywhere.

As one of the superstar's movie titles declared "Anbukku naan adimai" (I am a slave to affection). Certainly applies to the hard men of Chennai.

Bit Hawk said...

Haha...truly hilarious!!
I have encountered auto drivers who choose to disappoint you after giving so much consideration. Example:
Me: "Banashankari?"
BAD: "Where in Banashankari?"
Me: "1st block?"
BAD: "Where in 1st block?"
Me: "Near ring road"
BAD gives that smile full of pity and declares - "No sir, loss aagutte".

These auto drivers, I tell ya!