Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Please don't ask - but this is how it works!

Whenever we travel in auto, one thing we always keep note of is - "THE METER" - to check if it is really working. After traveling umpteen number of times in Mumbai autos, one thing which that noticeable was that 90% of the meters are faulty. You can judge it by counting the number of electricity poles that passes whenever meter reading changes. Normally meter reading will change with every 6th pole (when the poles are far apart) and 7-8 poles when the poles are near by, i.e. on fly overs. Also during idle time, when auto stands in traffic, meter reading changes every 1.5 minutes.


to our dismay, it doesn't happen in real life. This reading runs for every 4.5 to 5.5 poles (distant poles) and 6 poles on flyovers. A discount of 10% or so is what the Autos make in Mumbai on a journey - quite unnoticeable huh!! Similarly, the idle time of meters range from 45 seconds to 75 seconds. Conclusion - Only person that gains from these traffic stops are these auto walas (apart from other "Traffic Signal" Movie characters like beggars, hawkers, cleaners, etc).

These Auto walas pay Rs 150 - 200 every day to the owner of their autos for a time band. Petrol or Gas is not the owner's headache, it has to be borne by the driver. And we need not say that auto should be returned in same condition in which it was taken. Shift timings are known in cities in India where a same auto number could be driven by two or three people in different timings. So avoid forcing an auto in times when he is running to return the auto. He may be in hurry to go far from a place where he might have dropped a similar passenger like you.

But to write as a customer, we always keep track of the meter reading and inform the driver if we find something fishy. Maximum advantage you can have is to get down from auto at your desired location before your destination for another auto. You may also continue to fight with him for the fare difference and tell him about your fictitious uncle Aunty or cousin in RTO who would take heed of his behavior if he doesn't reduce charges. Everyone of us must have done it and very few times, we muster the courage to get down and take another suspected auto ;). But it does pay sometimes!

Talking about RTO, let me narrate my experience with RTO. Learning 4 wheeler requires paying visit to the church of driving schools (RTO). Returning from a Pune trip and instantly rush to the RTO with certificates was another experience altogether. RTO is a place full of RTO consultants, police, driving schools cars, agents and lots and lots of applications with dust and chaos. I was wearing formal shoes and by the time the process got over, they got camouflaged with the ground - unnoticeable. Even though the work was for not more than 30 min, it sometimes requires to stand for more than 3 hours.

You will find two kinds of applicants there - one for the Kaccha (temporary) learner's license (like me) and other those who had finished their learning and wanted a Pakka (permanent) license. When you reach, you will be asked to stand in line for the verification by police with your certificates and government copy of the forms. Our line started with girls, then Pakka license applicants and then Kaccha license applicants. We had in our front a car which bore the name of our driving school. You might think that it would be tough to drive while making 8 shape (which can be asked by the checking RTO team), but what we saw was completely different. Four people entered in one car and drove only 5 meters per person (or rather just held steering, as major work was done by the side driver). After all the check up, we were asked to wait for another 2 hours on statement that the security is tight for the proper verification.

Second line was for the Biometric finger printing and photos where we stood for more than an hour. Lunch break was more than 30 minutes and line was growing with time. But hey.. did i say line? Sorry! my mistake. Please accept my apologies. Actually there was no line. But from a distance, if you see, you would find some zigzag line. Agents have good tie ups with officials inside and this helps them in creating their own line as per their whims and fancies. Some entered with girls and said "Ladies ko pehle ander aane do" (let ladies come in first), on occasions even when there was just one girl/lady/woman/whatever. But along with those so called "single ladies", they would also sit for their pictures and biometric data prints. After standing for more than 45 minutes, I finally broke my line and entered another small line that was building up with agents. Work was for not more than 2 minutes and everyone thought this is over.

But guess what!! There was another line waiting for the safety test (computer based), where we were asked to stand in a dark room and asked to punch one of the three buttons A (Red), B (yellow) and C (Green) for the objective questions flashing on the screen with 3 options. We were instructed to press the answer button only once and .... only when the answer was shouted. Yes, you got it right - ONLY WHEN THE ANSWER WAS SHOUTED. Some seats were vacant but there were people who were running from pillar to post to press those buttons for Mr India (invisible) applicants. Finally we all passed with flying colors and with distinction indeed - 100% marks never came on any on my tests in life. But here I was standing with the feeling of "FLY HIGH". Whats the point? But one funny thing was that, there were people who got 80% marks also. That was the time which made me realize - copy and cheating is an art, it can neither be created nor be destroyed, but can only be transformed from one form to another!

All done finally and we departed for our places with a promise to get our license by next day. Harrowing experience for me with all broken rules. But during this time, people who made money are - agents, police, hawkers, ear dirt removers (i don't know what to call them), tea stalls and canteens. But for me, it was the time for my massage on beach at night!! :) Let him earn too...