The (in)famous Chennai auto

For those of you who are wondering if I still commute by cycle-rickshaw in my daily life (apropos this recent post of mine), I wish to say that ever since we moved our home (from the old one where the family spent more than three decades), I have indeed been taking the “venerable” Chennai auto to work and back as well as to attend to other chores in the neighbouring localities.

What has been my experience so far? I find that on average, most guys are good and even when they ask for a laughably exhorbitant fare to a destination, I am more amused than angry and the fellow finally agrees to my price. So, for those of you dreading to flag down an auto, please tell yourself that you will get an honest and good guy and in all probability, you may. Of course, there may be some bad apples (and these are found in every profession on earth) but that does not warrant a blanket bad image for everyone plying an auto on the streets of Chennai.

A bus conductor ended up as the SuperStar so there is no telling where a good auto guy may end, provided he has the burning desire to move up in life. Also taking an auto to work everyday has made me painfully aware of how narrow the roads have become while the numbers of vehicle owners have gone up. So, I always end up grappling with the dilemma of whether I need to go for a car or will I be better off using ready-to-call transport services like autos, call-taxis and tourist taxis, which are in abundance in Chennai. Anyway, the pleasant surprise to me after my relocation to Chennai has been the improvement in their behavior and the fact that many of them own a cell-phone which makes it possible to call them when we want one.

Current impression of Chennai auto-drivers: Ok. Many can pass the grade.

14 Comments so far

  1. Nastikan (unregistered) on October 19th, 2006 @ 4:43 am

    Thirippiyum sollanum: and this is the city some people were claiming had a good transit system, where the choice is between car and taxi.

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  3. ttm (unregistered) on October 19th, 2006 @ 6:24 am

    Theerpai maathi sollunga :)

  4. Navneeth (unregistered) on October 19th, 2006 @ 3:25 pm

    Why would I care if an auto-driver becomes a future-super star.All I want know is that he can take me to the next street in under twenty rupees. I avoid taking autos, and prefer the congested, rickety MTC.

    P.S. Superstars(not the self-proclaimed ones) are (very)few and far between, you know. :P

  5. nandhu (unregistered) on October 19th, 2006 @ 7:13 pm

    what we need is a proper regulation system. auto drivers are not often owners of the vehicles.

  6. Maverick (unregistered) on October 19th, 2006 @ 9:17 pm

    I think you are one of the lucky few.I find most of these guys uncouth.

  7. Nastikan (unregistered) on October 19th, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

    Uncouth, no less! I think you should tip extra so your driver can take etiquette lessons.

  8. jgn (unregistered) on October 20th, 2006 @ 3:11 pm

    whatever you say they are worst and rude bunch of guys in chennai.

  9. Mahadevan (unregistered) on October 20th, 2006 @ 7:07 pm

    I don’t know about Chennai. In Mumbai we pay auto drivers by meter and generally they are well behaved. For a km ride, we pay as low as Rs.9/-. Chennai auto drivers would not touch that money by even ‘peechankai’.

  10. Potpourri (unregistered) on October 21st, 2006 @ 7:20 am

    When I was in Chennai,my office was at 1000 Lights and sometimes I commuted back home by auto. One such day, an auto guy shared an anecdote which I find very funny even today. Here goes –
    There was this foreigner tourist who wanted to hire his auto to go somewhere and this guy trying to rip him off (he said so himself) asked for an exorbitant rate. Immediately, the tourist took out a sheet of paper where his host had written down rates for several sources and destination like From-To-Rate. The tourist pointed out to the autowala, the rate written on the sheet and said “avlodaan taruven”..This guy was stunned. Obviously he couldn’t rip him, so he laughed and agreed to take the tourist around. The tourist ended up hiring him for the whole day and went around the city! The autowala told me “kaalam romba kettu pochu ma” ha ha ha..

  11. nandhu (unregistered) on October 21st, 2006 @ 12:20 pm

    nice anecdote potpourri. thanks for sharing!!

  12. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on October 22nd, 2006 @ 12:45 am

    I’m ok with what I call the Rs10 foreigner tax —as long as they don;t try to charge me like a tourist!

    But when we read, like Mahadevan posted above, about charges and meter use in other cities, then we know that Chennai autos are, in fact, a rip-off.

  13. kbs (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2006 @ 10:41 am

    chennai autowalla’s should drink a ounce of kerala autowalla’s ???. I was very surprised there when they asked Rs. 7.50 for a ride the same which the chennai wala’s would have demanded Rs. 35/-!!

  14. thennavan (unregistered) on October 26th, 2006 @ 12:32 am

    Nastikan, Chennai is better than Mumbai in that respect since the natural topography of both being different, Chennai does not have a “everyone goes to work in one direction and returns back in the opposite” culture as in Mumbai that has led to an almost total dependance on the local train with its attendant problems of space and other hazards like the recent bomb blasts.

    TTM, sollittaa pochchu :-).

    Navneeth, last para, point noted :-).

    Nandhu, that is once again a peculiar Chennai thing I guess.

    Maverick, I guess I get by because I can relate in a “local” sense to their overall profile :-).

    JGN, I guess everyone applies their experiences as opinion-filters but I don’t say you are wrong. Just that I am aware of the larger context issues but am still amazed at the goodness of some of them.

    Mahadevan, “neththi adi” :-).

    Potpourri, thanks for sharing that fabulous example :-).

    Thad, that Chennai autos try to rip you off is well-known which is why when I find behavior that is opposite of the stereo-type, I am pleasantly surprised. It is always helpful to keep expectations low as a general rule :-).

    KBS, everything in Kerala is cheap. Why else would all these Kerala actors and actresses make a bee-line to Kodambakkam? :-)

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