A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Convenience lost

Posted by Pepper on October 22, 2012

When I proposed the idea of moving back to India, I had clear reasons backing my stand. One of them was ‘convenience’. The convenience and availability of cheap public transport, for one. I think that makes a big difference to the quality of life you lead. In the US, we used our beloved car all the time and drove everywhere. When we didn’t use our car, we walked. Buses had neither good connectivity, nor good frequency. Atleast not in the area we lived in.

I remember walking back from the BART station close to our home in the Bay Area and thinking to myself “Man, had I been in India, I’d have just gotten into an auto without any thought”. There were days on which Mint and I would walk back home from the station at night. It would be windy and cold. I’d be tired. Yet, we thought taking a cab was too much of a luxury. California was expensive. Splurging on cabs seemed like an indulgence we couldn’t afford. Each of those times – I missed India. After all, in India, most people huddled in the middle class bracket would be able to afford auto rickshaws, if not cabs.

I think those words are coming to bite me back in my ass. Auto fares in Mumbai have been jumping steadily, every few months. A little more than a year ago, it cost me Rs 20, to go from my home to the nearest station. Today, it costs me Rs 40! In case you are slow with numbers, that is double of what it used to be not too long ago.

Yes, petrol is becoming pricier by the day, but despite that, I don’t think it justifies the ridiculous fares we pay to auto drivers. Also, most autos/rickshaws run on CNG, which is cheaper than petrol. Anyway, meter rates keep getting revised upwards, even when there are no fuel hikes.  Today, driving your own car to a nearby locality would be cheaper than than taking an rickshaw. This leaves me a bit confused.

Where do the ordinary people go? There are more than a million people who cannot afford a car. They rely heavily on rickshaws. And then there are people who can afford cars, but still prefer to hop into an auto – just so they can escape the ordeal of parking the car in this crammed city. And then there are others like my mom – middle aged men and women who do own vehicles but do not know how to drive them. There are old people who cannot climb into trains and buses. There are people who can’t otherwise afford rickshaws, but still go ahead and use them sometimes when they are short of time and can’t afford to wait for a bus or a train. Now that rickshaws are no longer a commodity that we can afford, where do we turn to?

The fares have nearly doubled in the past year or two, unfortunately, our salary packages remain more or less the same. This is just creating a bigger gap between our needs and the available resources. Will autos become a luxury in India? Are they really a luxury? What am I paying for? A rickety ride in a slow moving auto rickshaw that forces me to ingest truckloads of pollution (‘truck loads’ literally) that is killing me?

I do not want to comment on the economic environment. Call it inflation, or whatever you want. I am only observing the effects it has on me. I know the famed auto drivers are needy people. They are fighting the rising prices of vegetables and other everyday essentials. But heck, I am needy too. Prices are rising around me too, and nobody is giving me a pay hike.

I know. They say rickshaws are criminalised and discriminated against.  I’ve thought through this argument. While I am not sure I blame the auto drivers for the fare hikes, I certainly blame them for turning into a pricey breed. The arrogance with which they see through me and drive away when I am waiting on the road with bags in my hands is unnerving and frustrating. Even if they do stop, they snootily turn up their noses after I tell them where I want to go and drive away. If they are needy, why don’t they really do their job and take me where I want to go? How can they refuse destination X and destination Y? Why can’t they respect their job? Now, we don’t exactly get to choose all our projects at work, do we? We don’t always get to take up the most profitable opportunity. We just have to take what we get. Why should it be any different for them?

Reports say this is the 3rd freaking hike that has taken place within the span of a year. I know I can no longer count on auto rickshaws as a medium of transport for an everyday commute. I miss the days in which I could heedlessly hail an auto and be dropped to to my destination. Now, with the new provisions of the autorichsaw fares- the middle class has been made to part with an integral component of their lives.  There goes my ‘convenience’ factor. I know I will have to brave the heat and the dust and walk up to the bus stop in the mid day sun, and then jostle my way in the midst of sweaty strangers who love all displays of profanity. Suddenly, I miss USA. And my car. And the smooth roads. And the prices of gas, that sound so sweet to me now.


73 Responses to “Convenience lost”

  1. My Era said

    I agree with alarming fare hikes in the auto rickshaw fares everywhere in the country 😦

    But still these rickshaws remain far convenient and easy on the pocket as compared to cabs if we happen to use them on a daily/frequent basis (be it in India or abroad). Though no doubt they do make up for a costly means of transportation as compared to driving our own vehicle, but save us the stress of finding a safe parking spot 🙂

    • Pepper said

      I really wouldn’t say the rickshaws are ‘easy on the pocket’ anymore, ME 😦 Not even when compared to cabs. The difference between fares isn’t too significant.

      I talk only about Mumbai here. The minimum fare for an auto is Rs 15 now. In a cab, it is Rs 19. The difference is just Rs 4. The very reason rickshaws came into existence was because cabs were unaffordable for a certain segment of our society. Now when rickshaws are so pricey, I really wonder what purpose they serve. Also, I feel less resentful shelling out a stipulated amount for a cab. I know they run on petrol, which is very costly, unlike CNG. A cab is a more expensive vehicle that offers me more leg room, more comfort, and more safety. It allows me to roll up the windows when the pollution makes me gag. It moves faster. It is not as bumpy as a rickshaw. An auto rickshaw is nothing more than an open metallic frame. At one time, we ignored the discomfort because the rates were so affordable. Now when the rates are so high, I can’t help but wonder what I am paying for.

      And no, the current rates make sure I don’t escape the stress of finding a safe parking spot 😦 I drive more and I struggle to park because I really am unable to cope with the escalating rickshaw fares. At one time it made sense to hop into an auto and not worry about driving. It doesn’t anymore. I feel sorry for people who don’t own cars.

      • My Era said

        I had no clue about the cab’s minimum fare being just Rs 19, for I haven’t used a cab in India from almost seven years and while reading your post my mind was probably lost converting the minimum fare I’d paid in dollars to the INR. Your reply actually opened up all of my mind’s windows and I am actually feeling good about driving around 99% times for exactly the same reason as yours 🙂

        I agree about the CNG bit, but the gas prices are on an all time high so am afraid in no time we are heading for another fare hike of rickshaws 😦

        Thank you for waking up my sleeping to the harsh realities brain.

  2. You have said EVERYTHING that describes the common man’s plight in our GREAT BHARAT!!!
    And mind you -you are talking of Mumbai where there are many many more conveniences for commuting compared to other cities.
    You have just to visit a few cities further north.
    In fact the quality of his life is going from BAD TO WORSE!
    Unabated inflation,rampant corruption at every level,no justice,no personal security( every building block is like a fort under seige with armed guards noting addresses and names and car numbers) running from pillar to post to get even the smallest things done!
    What is happening in the name of PROGRESS and MODERNIZATION?

    Unless young people do not contribut by way of awakening themselves and others and doing something TOGETHER I do wonder as to what will happen to the next coming generations!!!!!

    In order to get some ideas for motivation and doing something concrete please do visit Shantanu Bhagwat’s Blog SATYAMEVA JAYATE.This has nothing to do with Amir Khan’s television programme.

    • Pepper said

      Good to see you here again, V! I only spoke about Mumbai because I didn’t think I had the authority to comment on other cities. But you’re right. Things are much worse elsewhere.

      These fare hikes are nothing but political games. How else can you justify 3 hikes in a single year? Which other job gives you so many hikes so close to each other? The formula is simple. You form a union and go on a strike and then blackmail people to comply to your demands. The government agrees for it’s own political gains. It leaves the common people in the centre of the grind. In the news articles I read, it said “The Maharashtra government has permitted hikes in autorickshaw and taxi fares with a caveat that the cabbies will provide enhanced services to the customers”. I find that so ridiculous, it is laughable.

      I have visited that blog. I think I should, more often and actively participate in all ways I can.

      • Thanks Pepper for your prompt and pro-active response.
        Reading the comments section again reveals Reality that is hitting individual lives.
        We all know what is happening on ground level and yet we are nowhere any closer to solutions even to challenge such life-crippling issues that are plaguing our people.
        Young people start talking and acting TOGETHER in small ways to people -even auto-rickshaw walas who are after all also ‘victims of circumstances’.
        Try holding some meetings with a ‘respected citizen’ to giving view points to such issues and mind you also try to talk in the language understood by the majority- NOT ENGLISH PLEASE though I know it will be difficult in the beginning.
        Yes TIME is the limiting factor for us all today BUT “where there is a will there is a way” and if we want CHANGE we have to START DOING SOMETHING FAST SERIOUSLY.
        Mind you we are from the “upper strata of society ” who speak English and have the luxury of using the Internet and can give vent to our frustrations.
        Where are we going wrong?Why should a normal honest human being be put through such Hell?
        Living in the WEST for over 2 decades we have seen that the common man does get his rights but it is not the crazy “democracy” as we have it in our land.Our way of life according to SANATANA Dharma was embedded into our genetic code ( more or less people in society out of sense of duty & self-respect did what was to be done and so also got his rights by way of DOING ONE’s DUTIES)but today over the last few centuries of “colonization” our indigenous systems were destroyed and we have got mutated and twisted in our heads.
        Today the percentage of duty-conscious people has plummetted abysmally
        especially those in places of power.
        YATHA RAJA TATHA PRAJAA!I think there is no need to explain.
        The common man is so harassed and hassled that he as stopped thinking.
        And he takes the easy way out.
        He bribes,breaks rules and takes short-cuts to achieve his ends.The means has no meaning at all!
        Living in the heart of Europe these 20 odd years believe me not a single person ever approached us for a favor and that is something remarkable!
        Despite all the ravaging and plundering these colonial countries did they built their systems and it is admirable how a sense of solidarity and sense of duty penetrates every walk of life.Public systems like educational institutions,medical facilities,decent roads and highways for various modes of commuting-trains,metro,buses everything works without any hitch.
        There is respect for each and every individual by and large.
        Handicapped persons have greater rights than normal ordinary persons.
        This was what our rishis and sages of knew when they said- VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBAKAM for no man can remain an island.We are all connected for good and bad!
        Yes-everything is far from perfect here.Personal lives are in a shambles.Concept of family is fast disappearing because both ‘man and woman” are in search of “perfection” and in this process they are becoming very egoistic and self-oriented.
        We on the other hand are still family oriented which is actually the bedrock of a stable society BUT we are much like the robber VAMILKI who used to plunder and loot people for the sake of feeding his family before DHARMIC ACTION & SATTVIC ACTION and it’s effects were revealed to him when he got SELF-REALIZATION.And then of course you know he wrote the VALMIKI RAMAYANAM which is still a living treatise of connectivity from that time till today to us!

        This is the sacred season of SHAARADIYA NAVARATRI and my SHUBHACHINTANAM for you,family and friends-ONE & ALL!

        Today is NAVAMI POOJA and our prayers to SARASVATI DEVI for SUBUDDHI for us all.
        MAY DEIVI SHAKTI pervade everywhere and may there be happiness and prosperity for ALL!
        Tomorrow is VIJAYA DASHAMI and so as our brothers and sisters ifrom Bengal would say SHUBHO BIJOYA TO US ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Read some of Pepper’s writing/odeas as well as your thoughts, Vijaya. Yes, let’s hope we will get inspiration for positive change and well-being replacing this mad and selfish rush for material gains and power! Best wishes Kusum

  3. Last time while I was in India, I was paying Rs100 for one way from my home to office which was hardly 5KMs. I felt it was too much. If I am late while coming back they would ask 150 or 200. One day I was so upset with them I decided to walk (may be not a good idea in the night) till I was cooled down and got an another auto who was ready to take me home for 120. Even I feel the convenience factor is slowly going away.

    • Pepper said

      They just need an excuse to over charge 😦 You know I think I could only afford India when we lived in the US. That time we earned in dollars and when we visited India, we could cope with the prices. Now that we live here and earn in rupees, I feel the weight of the financial burdens. I wonder where the convenience lies now.

  4. ajay said

    From my three month experience in Bangalore, I can say that auto drivers in Bangalore are so rude, arrogant and always looking out to con you. There have been occasions when they have intentionally talked to me in Kannada when I requested them to talk in English or Hindi. My office is only 3 km away from where I live but they won’t settle for anything less than Rs 70. If you ask them to charge by metre reading they will add 10 rupees extra! I have no other option but to walk 1.5 km daily to catch the bus.

    • Pepper said

      I am not surprised. We’re all a part of a system that is out to loot us.

    • aquaboyin said

      Ajay, how long have you been in Bangalore? Its not so difficult to learn the language. Bangalore is one of the rarest cities where ppl speak multiple languages for ur convenience. I guess you can reciprocate by learning the local language. 🙂

      Most of the auto driver are rude in every city.. nothing new about it. I can say that for more than 15 cities I have been to. 🙂

      • Pepper said

        Aquaboyin, in his comment, Ajay already said he has been in Bangalore for 3 months. Too short a stay to learn a language, isn’t it? Anyway, just wanted to ask you how you can say say this with such certainty – “Its not so difficult to learn the language”. Easy and difficult are subjective words. Trust me, for a non South Indian, learning a South Indian language is hard! The language has completely different roots. I have been struggling to learn Tamil for almost 3 years now. I haven’t made much progress, despite having a husband who is hard core Tamil speaker. I feel a little upset and insulted when people say things like ‘how easy it is’. It feels like they are dismissing all my efforts.

        What matters more is the desire to learn. And I am sure Ajay is trying.

        • aquaboyin said

          thanks for pointing it out. “Three Months” vs “3 Months” made me over look it. 😛 Yes, 3 months is a short time.

          I was in Bangalore for 3.5 years and still did not speak Kannada. Not because I couldn’t, but because once you pick up the language it becomes quite hard to not like that place 🙂 and I wanted to move out of Bangalore. 🙂
          I understand every word they speak, I just don’t respond back in Kannada. Same with Tamil, I understand 50 to 60% of what they speak, just cant converse in it.

          All Indian languages have their roots in Sanskrit. Kannada has too many Sanskrit words, that makes it quite easy to pick up the language.

          Me: Let’s just agree to disagree. For me (as a so called North Indian) if I know Hindi, I can learn Marathi, Punjabi, Gujrati easily. I can’t learn Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam and Kannada with the same ease. It’s a long battle, because every word is very different. Not even similar sounding.

          I am a Telugu and Kannada Lipi (script) is 80 to 90% exact replica of how we write Telugu. So you cannot imagine how confusing it can get when you read in Telugu and the word is Kannada 😛

          But the question remains “Quite controversial”.
          If I (a south Indian) can pick up Hindi and understand Kannada, Tamil, Punjabi and Marathi by just speaking with few and watching movies. Why cant few north Indians (trying to make a living down south) make an effort to to learn the local language for their own good 🙂

          Me: I do not want to get into controversies. Perhaps you have an exceptional ability to pick up languages. Majority of us don’t. Most South Indians who have not studied Hindi at any point during their formative years do not find it easy to learn the language now. Neither do I expect them to be able to learn it, not easily atleast.

          If you talk about taking the effort, then I am with you completely. We all should and must take the effort to learn the local language. Didn’t I say this too? I said the desire to learn is what matters. I only have a problem with you calling it ‘easy’.

          A north Indian friend of mine learnt just 20 to 30 words in Kannada and has been trouble free for the last 6 years 😛 That’s all it takes in Bangalore atleast 😛

          And Ajay .. here is a suggestion for you 🙂 Next time you need to catch an auto. Just get into the auto and tell him the destination. If he says no, or asks for anything above meter, ask him to take you to the nearest Police Station. It always worked for me in Bangalore and Hyderabad. (Just make sure you know the route :P)
          You also have a very efficient complaint registration system in Bangalore.. just read the placard behind the driver seat. All instructions are pasted there along with the licence, vehicle registration, website and email address. Its an offence not to carry that in the auto 🙂

          • diatriblog said

            Its funny how ALL South Indians call people from Mumbai “North Indians” 😀 I can’t help but laugh!

            • Pepper said

              Lol! Yes. Not just Mumbai, but anybody who is not a South Indian is called a North Indian. But then us ‘North Indians’ do equally stupid things, so I won’t comment 😀

          • ajay said

            Oh the discussion has veered off in a completely different direction which makes for an interesting and debatable topic which I want to write about sometime but yes thanks for your suggestion Aquaboyin. 🙂 Bangalore traffic police is prompt to crack down on people who flout traffic rules but I am wary of getting into arguments with auto-drivers after hearing some harrowing experiences of my friends.

            Trying to learn Kannada will be good. There are many Kannada-speaking people in my office. I should seek their help and try to learn a few words each day. 🙂 But I agree with Pepper here. It’s very subjective how fast and easily you can pick up a new language. Some people take a few years to become conversant with a new language quite effortlessly while some find the same quite hard.

          • Thisisme said

            well…i m well versed with kannada…my parents r from bangalore but i m bought up in north india..hence understand hindi, punjabi, kannada, telugu , tamil well…but i look like a complete north indian n do not have a south indian accent…so auto guys assume me to be a northie n speak in hindi even when i speak in kannada…
            i went to bangalore for professional reasons for 3 months and it was harrowing to use the auto there!
            1. The Auto guys r extremely rude and even abuse A LOT!They abused females n also on 2 occasions, snr citizens like my mom..i should have slapped them!what a**holes!
            2. the rate they quote will never be the final rate they ask for once u reach the destination. they wil add 10/20/30 bucks extra and if u refuse…they will straightaway abuse u in kannada! thankfully, i know kannada n understood what they were saying n hence abused him back nicely n then they get into north-south debate!hah!
            3. My north indian friends have been harassed badly and since they dont understand kannada , they dont even realise the abuses coming their way…once a female friend of mine, was ganged upon by auto wallahs coz she refused to pay extra! that DOESNOT happen in other cities!
            4. The language they use is pathetic!
            5. Show me a auto wallah who goes by meter and does not add /alter anything about it and i will show u an alien!
            6. The fares r atrocious. In ITPL for a distance of 3 kms, I was asked Rs 350!!!! I immediately hopped onto a bus after that!
            7. Not all city auto wallahs r this Bad! I have been using autos across many cities in india and Udaipur was the BEST experience! Mumbai, Delhi, Dehradun, Indore, etc are all really good and behave very nicely. I was repeatedly abused ONLY in Bangalore!
            8. Thanks to this auto wallahs in bangalore, I became very conversant with Buses in Bangalore and really prefer the volvo buses! They r really comfortable and economical n no harassment on fares! so thank god for that!

  5. diatriblog said

    Oh no no no! You just made my already dwindling resolve to move back to India even weaker 😦 You should do a post with the pros of moving back to India and living in Mumbai (Hint: Food, food and some more food! :D)

    • Pepper said

      If your resolve to move back is dwindling, I suggest you don’t even think about it. In order to sail through the everyday inefficiencies and frustrations, you need to have very strong reasons and desires to live here. Else it is that much harder.
      Ofcourse, living here has it’s own set of pros. I love my life here. Will do a post sometime 😀

  6. Comfy said

    Don’t really know about auto fares but I do find India very expensive and always wonder how middle class people can afford it all. As you said salaries are still more or less the same but the prices of commodities keep climbing up. Not sure what is going on.

    • Pepper said

      Okay, thank you Comfy, for stating this here. This will make me rant. I am a little tired of saying this to people around me. India is very expensive! USA is not. The problem here is that people use direct conversions (of dollar to rupee) to compare the differences. That is not how it works. You cannot use direct conversions. Something that costs Rs 500 here, does not cost $500 in the US. That would cost approximately $50 there. So we have people sayin, Rs 500 is still cheaper than $ 50 (the literal value would be about Rs 2600). Argh. For an American, the value of $50 is not the same as what Rs 2600 is to an Indian. Even the salary structures are scaled very differently.

      In the US when we ate out, a decent meal for 2 cost us $ 20- 30. We ate out so often. Going by the economic value of the currency, the same meal should ideally be costing us Rs 200 – 300 here. What it actually costs is more like Rs 1000 – 1500. So yes, people will say the meals cost the same. But heck no! $20 didn’t mean much to us in the US. Rs 1500 means a lot to us in India. Even if their literal value is the same, their economic value is vastly different.

      I really do not understand why people use direct conversions. It is stupid. Everything in the US is so much more affordable. Be it automobiles. gas, furniture, homes, etc. When it comes to cost of living, India is going berserk.

  7. “Even if they do stop, they snootily turn up their noses after I tell them where I want to go and drive away”
    So true, why do they do this?? I really don’t like this behavior, It is more convenient in west, just open the door of the cab and instruct the driver where you need to go but again we have to pay more to use this convenience 😦

    • Pepper said

      Like I just said in my response to Comfy, even the ‘pay more’ is debatable now. You only pay slightly more than we do, but get so much better service in return 😦

  8. R's Mom said

    Gosh! I was going to write about this on Thursday….Ricks are getting so so expensive, that honestly Pepper, I doubt whether I can afford them easily..everytime I take out a 100 Rs note when I have to drop R to the daycare and get some chillar change back 😦 unfortunately there is no direct bus to her daycare…if we took the bus, it would mean changing two buses and then walk for about 10 minutes…the question in mind is, do I make my child do that? Darn these rick fares 😦

    and worse are the cheaters…I mean here they are being given higher fares but they CHEAT!! meters running fast, giving wrong cards, charging 10 Rs more… 😦 I could do a whole post you know..

    Sorry for the outburst, something that has been in my mind for a long time!

    • Pepper said

      And how could I forget to mention how much they cheat? Meters are tampered with, change is rarely returned. It is infuriating beyond words.
      There are days when I spent Rs 500-600 just on autos. That HAS to stop. I can no longer afford use these ricks. The worst thing like you pointed out is that sometimes I am not left with a choice. There are no buses. Walking is hardly an option. Then we just have to shell out our hard earned money. This is what exploitation means – taking advantage of a weakness. 😦

  9. Jazz said

    I was recently talking to Mom and realized how the auto fares have increased tremendously. Not only autos, even bus/train fares have increased, but still I used to love travelling by bus/local trains in Chennai.

    And I so agree with the prices in CA.

    • Pepper said

      True, bus fares have increased too, but they are still so much more affordable. And I think trains are the cheapest. It costs me Rs 8 to go from one end of the city to another. I’d think it is totally fair if the train prices increased.

  10. Agree, agree…
    Not to mention the amount of attitude these auto drivers carry.. You feel like slapping them really.. coz arguing with them is just not happening.. they just refuse to be fair…they refuse to take you from place A to B for no good reason, in evenings you have to struggle over 20 mins…
    Plus plus plus…if you are short of change sometime..they abuse you…If they are short of change, you are forced to round off to the nearest 10 and pay more..Sigh!
    And hello..where is the increment happening at work?

    • Pepper said

      I’ve waited for a good one hour, because these jerks simply refused to take me where I wanted to go. I felt like throttling them, I was that angry. Don’t even talk about how unscrupulous they are and how they deal with change.

  11. Sunitha said

    I lived in Mumbai for 3 years (2001-2004) before moving to Bangalore and from my experience, Mumbai autowalas are much better than their counterparts in Bangalore. Here the rates are always in terms of 1.5 to double the meter reading even during day time!! Its more if they find the passenger to be a non-localite/IT/ITES professional or is new to the place..i used to miss Mumbai so much during the initial days in Bangalore.

  12. ashreyamom said

    true.. and in vizag there is no meter rule for autos.. its the price they ask for.. there are different prices for locals and non-locals too.. but i am surviving because of the share autos.. and connectivity of share-auto is good at vizag and rates are fixed.. 🙂

  13. Ashwathy said

    Everything is so pricey these days 😦
    I agree with you… I have no frigging clue why they made so many price hikes in a span of such a short time. I agree that the auto drivers also need money to deal with rising inflation etc. But then they should never refuse to take us anywhere. Not turn up their noses and say no. It’s a pain yaar. It’s getting to expensive to just exist!!! 😐

  14. metherebel said

    So true! The auto drivers here in Mangalore are not all that bad although the minimum fare here is 17 rupees. But the auto drivers in Bangalore were a serious pain.

    The prices keep hiking by the day I wish our salaries also hiked likewise!

  15. I can vouch for that India is no more cheap.. I can actually get stuff cheaper here in UK than in India.. yeah the jugaad is there but if you want decent things..it I’d expensive..

    I was in Bangalore and I spent so much on autos and taxi.. and I don’t believe when the auto guys say no to a fare.. I mean why.. you had to ask 3 or 4 or more before one agreed to take you and then they say will take 10 or 20 above the meter..

    I call that cheating.. and it’s a shame.. they go on strikes yet the auto people cheat and I would like to go on record they are liars too.. will say one price and when you reach it changes..

  16. Kartikay said

    I don’t agree with you.

    First, you present an extremely biased viewpoint, that of individuals like yourself (and, presumably, the middle class). In a way you’re “demonizing” an entire class of workers, without any voice or opinion from the “other” side.

    (I know this is going to sound rude, but Hitler did that too).

    In any case, here’s an interesting article that had a huge impact for me. Made me realize that I’ve been sitting on a wrong platform trying to analyze an issue with misguided arguments!


    Second, inflation is here to stay. Whether certain increases can be directly linked to increasing oil prices or not, it really doesn’t matter. Everyone’s cost of living is increasing. I know you’re venting out (:P) but we’re all suffering here!

    – Me

    • Pepper said

      I don’t expect everybody to agree with me, Kartikay. Just a few things to point out –

      – I am not sure how you call my viewpoint biased. Everything written on this blog is obviously written from my point of view. How exactly do you expect a personal blog to have any opinions or a voice from the ‘other’ side? This place will obviously have only my voice. That is exactly why it is a personal blog, no?

      – I think you should pay more attention to your choice of words. How exactly have I ‘demonized’ the autodrivers? Most of my post only spoke about the effect of the rising auto fares on me. I only spoke about how inconvenienced I am. This is nothing but a factual reality. Even in the last part, I only say this line “While I am not sure I blame the auto drivers for the fare hikes, I certainly blame them for turning into a pricey breed.” Even here, I make it a point to say I do not blame the auto drivers for the fare hikes. Did you even read the post? And oh, if you expect me to not be affected by the terrible way in which they treat me, I think that is rather unfair and biased on your part.

      – If you know something is going to sound rude, why say it?

      – Trust me, I did my research before I formed an opinion. I’ve already read the article you linked. In fact, I’ve read more on similar lines. Here’s another article http://www.countercurrents.org/date101012.htm I agree with some parts. I disagree with most. I think those are flawed arguments, mainly because the author has not used comparable examples. I can contest the author’s views and provide you with a logical counter argument. I would do that, if I had the time to do it.

      – I also think you’ve read between the lines in my post. You imagined me ‘demonizing’ an entire class of workers perhaps because you expected me to do that. After reading the article you linked, maybe? In the campaign the author of the article you linked has spoken about, the autorickshaw drivers do seem to be demonoized. Even the graphical presentation of that campaign points in that direction – with a demon riding the auto. So perhaps the author of that article has some right to use that word. But my post wasn’t even about autorickshaw drivers! It was about me! The way I am suffering because of what is going on around me.

      – Yes, inflation is here to stay, but I am not sure my problem is linked to that. I really think you missed the point of my post. Anyway, I highly recommend you read this post by MM http://themadmomma.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/meterjam/ I wanted to link it to the post I wrote here, but I couldn’t find it at that time. Perhaps I should do it now. She says it all with a lot more clarity and substance.

  17. Jack Point said

    Would a bicycle solve a few problems?

    • Pepper said

      I guess so, but it’s hard. We have no bike lanes here (obviously!) and each time I try and bike on the road, I fear being run over by a speeding car.

  18. Jack Point said

    On cost of living, overall I think India is probably cheaper than Sri Lanka. The last time I checked, food prices seemed comparatively lower in India.


    Trishaws charge a minimum of Rs.50 (Sri Lankan) for the shortest distance ( a few hundred metres), most short hires would be around 100-150.

    Many trishaws now carry meters and fares range from 35-40 per km, which is a fair bit cheaper than it used to be, before meters came in. Perhaps introducing meters will help in Bombay? (I think it works because both the driver and the passenger know what the real distance is – so the automatic padding that takes place to compensate for errors in estimating differences disappears.)

  19. scorpria said

    minimum auto fare in mumbai is 15!? 😮 it’s 20 here in blore…and most of them have their own minimums as well…apart fromt eh “2o rs extra madam”!! i swear, the average man’s life is being squeezed out. all other prices go up, apart from salaries! bah!

  20. Tanishka said

    I soo agree to every bit of it peppy… Autos have really become a luxury.. The fares were anyways not so cheap and now they have doubled it… And the minimum fair of Rs.15 is just too much… And even after paying so much its not that we are getting the best service rather we get a treatment from the rick drivers as if they are doing some favor by dropping us to our destination and doing some free charity on us… Buses and trains are the only options for us now unless there is some urgency…

  21. SO true! The distance between my mom’s house and sis’s house in Chennai is abt 30-40 min drive even on bad traffic days. Exceptionally bad days, it can go upto an hour and a half or two. I remember the auto fare steadily rose from 50, to 60, 75, 100 and so on……..to now, hold your breath – Rs.400 ONE WAY !! How ridiculous is that?! And yes, earlier I would skip the entire shopping from US charade and buy relatives whatever they liked from their regular stores in India. Anything one got from the US wasn’t half as blingy as what they’re used to anyways AND it worked out easy on the pockets. Not anymore. Now, I stuff suitcases with clothes, toys, electronics, chocolates, kitchen stuff ….just about anything I can carry because shopping here is such a steal !! With off season deals, coupons and free shipping, it is such a breeze! Not to mention far superior quality for the price. In India, I could go to any metro with Rs. 10,000 and return with barely a couple of gifts. With $200 here, I could fill an entire check in baggage. Been itching to post about this, but no way! My relatives and in-laws in different parts of the world read my blog LOL !!

  22. aquaboyin said

    Bus fare from my town to Hyderabad – 83 Rs(105 KM) and auto in the city cost me – 110 Rs (11 KM). 🙂

    Auto mileage – 35KM/L, considering petrol price of 76 Rs/L that’s “2.17” Rs per KM.
    What government allows is minimum fare of 16Rs for 1.6 KM and then 9 Rs per KM. Averages to 9.16 per KM. That’s a profit of 7 Rs every KM

    Now the math.
    On an average of 250 KM a day he earns 1750 Rs, assuming he can work for most of the days and some weekends that’s 1750*25 days = 43,750 Rs

    That’s too good a salary don’t you think 🙂

    Downside of his job – breathing pollution for almost 8 to 9 hrs a day till they work.

    I say, ban the auto’s. Its as bad as allowing ppl to smoke cigarettes. Make them buy low emission cars or better Electric Cars with Extended Batteries for the 250 KM range and subsidise the vehicle by govt funding. Keep the current fares and let ppl make a decent living out of it 🙂

    How about govt owned electric car’s fleet with a fixed salary for the drivers every month. Not a bad idea even for a private enterprise don’t you think 🙂

    • Mint said


      I feel your assumptions are a little unrealistic.

      First, even if we consider an average travel speed of 25 kmph (which is VERY generous given the traffic conditions during the peak hours), 250 km of sawaari a day would imply he’s “meter-down” for 10 whole hours a day. That’s a lot 🙂

      Next, 35 kmpl is I think the rated fuel economy for new autos. For city driving in the aforementioned traffic conditions and while carrying a passenger load as well as driving an older vehicle, I’d be surprised if they got more than 25 kmpl. That’s a cost of Rs 3 per km travelled, reducing the profit to Rs 6 per km for sawaari.

      I’d think a typical autowallah works for about 12 hours a day (working hours excluding lunch break, chai etc). That gives him a MAX earning potential of 12 hrs * 25 kmph * Rs 6 per km = Rs 1800 per day if he’s 100% meter-down. Which as I said earlier is unrealistic.

      I’d say his meter-down utilization will be more like 50% (again I’m being VERY generous). That’s Rs. 900 per day. The remaining time he’ll either be doing an empty run or sitting idle while looking for sawaari (let’s assume an even split between the two i.e. 3 hours each). The latter doesn’t cost anything, but the former does – Rs 3 per km travelled. So 3 hrs * 25 kmph * Rs 3 per km = Rs 225 per day.

      After subtracting the cost of empty runs, he’s left with Rs 675 per day, which translates to an income of approx Rs 17000 per month for 25 working days.

      Now, a majority of auto drivers rent their autos rather than own them. I think the rent is about Rs 200 per day, which is Rs 5000 per month. Add another Rs 1000 for maintenance, parts and other miscellaneous. He’s left with Rs 11000 pm at best!

      Apart from this, there are a lot of other hidden costs depending on his city/area like operating permit, hafta to policemen, membership fees for the neighbourhood autostand/union etc etc. They all add up. Also, don’t forget that his cost of loans will also be higher because his only sources of finance are local loan sharks charging exorbitant interest rates.

      His monthly salary ends up being sub 10000 even when he has a good month!

      And then there are all those downsides and health issues to deal with. Pollution as you rightly pointed out in the long term. More immediate than that I’d imagine is the back pain from sitting all day on a vibrating rattling bench without proper back support (sorry, can’t call that a seat).

      So no, I don’t it’s too good a salary 🙂

      • Pepper said

        Ah, a comment from Mint! I am surprised.

        Okay, so here’s the thing – I never said the autowallahs have a good income. Far from it. They are definitely underpaid. Just like the rest of us in the country.

        I am not sure how much sense your analysis makes, because they don’t charge us per kilometer traveled. They charge us for the amount of time we use the rickshaw for. So that’s good money for them, even if they go and park their rickshaws in the middle of a monstrous traffic jam. They even turn off the engines most of the time. I am not saying that is wrong – just wondering if we can calculate their income based on the kilometers they travel. I think we can’t.

        Also, after reading your comment, I am even more baffled. If they are so burdened financially – WHY do they refuse passengers? Many of them take long afternoon naps during the day, you know? No destination seems good enough for them. If they’re worrying about the rent they pay per day, wouldn’t they want to make optimum use of the auto in the hours they are active? Many times they refuse ‘big fares’. It leaves me confused.

        Secondly, like I already said – I know they are underpaid..But we all are! Maids, sweepers, watchmen – they all do their jobs more sincerely and make a fraction of what the autowallas do. And if you think I am only talking about unskilled labour, let me ask you -do you have any idea of the number of engineers in our country that make less than Rs 10,000 a month? What do you think is the solution?

        • Mint said

          Umm, my comment was not a reply to you but to Aquaboyin, who had arrived at a fantastic monthly salary for the autowallahs based on a few inputs which I felt were very obviously incorrect. So I pointed out the fallacies and recalculated the number using more reasonable assumptions and methodology.

          Regarding them charging fare per time also, I agree that may be correct. But you can always keep going into more and more details like that. For the sake of some brevity, I used a net average travel speed of 25 kmph over the entire day and moved on. In my calculations, if you use an auto for an hour, he’d have charged you 25 kmph * Rs 9 per km = Rs 225, which is not that much different from what you’ll be charged after being stuck in a traffic jam etc if you think about it. Infact, it is probably more than the actual amount because like I said, I was being very optimistic and generous when taking the average speed to be 25 kmph. In reality, I suspect it’ll be much lower – somewhere between 15 to 20 kmph.

          I didn’t have an opinion about the rest of the stuff… just wanted to rectify the salary calculations. So maybe your other questions are directed to the wrong person? I can try taking a shot at them, but will have to think for a while.

    • Excellent Suggestions – Aquaboyin !

  23. Completely agree with you Pepper – The IT Boom in our country has done more bad than good for the society ! Adding to that our Corrupt politicians and our Political system ! Unless, a miracle happens I’m not sure how our country can be saved !

    To a certain level you can understand that the price hikes help the lower strata of the society cope with inflation…but this is sheer looting !

    I really miss those days in Bangalore – where there was calm and every rupee values so much…for now even if I have 2000 rs in my purse..it just feels so less..it can just vanish in no time !

  24. Homecooked said

    Did you stay in Fremont for the BART to be close to your place? We used to live there before and it was so convenient for me that I would go to the city anytime I wanted 🙂 Not to mention the bus stand there was awesome as I dont drive!

    • Homecooked said

      Ok I need to add… I always find INdia expensive even when I go for a holiday. They say you should multiply by 9 to get the proper conversion rate. So something which costs a dollar here should be available in India for Rs 9 to get correct standard of living point of view. I always do this when in India and I’ve always found India way more expensive this way. Even when I do the literal math that is multiply by 45 I find it expensive compared to US 😦

    • Pepper said

      That’s absolutely right, Homecooked! We stayed in Fremont, as opposed to the South Bay, just so we could be close to the BART. The Caltrain didn’t work as well for us. Living in Fremont was so convenient, I agree! 🙂 We took the train to the city so often – parking in SF is a pain. And we’d mostly get back at night, when there were no buses.

  25. Aish said

    Hi Pepper,
    Delurking here.. Couldn’t help but comment on this post! I’m from Chennai, lived here all my life(except for a few years in between when I was studying abroad) and believe me when I say we have THE worst auto drivers in the entire nation!! From what I remember, meters have never been used here. They just demand a fee and you either agree or you just walk off to find another one who’ll probably ask you for double the rate! It’s so frustrating, I wonder how people from different cities survive here especially coz they speak only in Tamil 😛 Funny part is I visited Bombay a few years ago(2010) and when I traveled in an auto, the guy switched on the meter, and when I got off he charged me exactly Rs.13 and I was just gaping at him like he was mad, coz I just wasn’t used to auto drivers being so nice. Sigh. I hate that things are changing in Bombay also 😦

    • Pepper said

      Hey Aish, thanks for delurking. 🙂 I must say, autodrivers in Bombay are saints compared to the ones in Chennai. I am complaining about the jumps in fares, but I also feel very grateful when I think of other cities. Despite all the hikes, Bombay is still the least costly. And whatever be the case, atleast I don’t have to haggle with every auto driver and beg them to charge me a fair amount. I have no idea why they don’t run on meters in Chennai 😦

      • VCM said

        Absolutely true– the rudeness of Chennai autorickshawalas is so ‘horrendous’ that hearing them speak as they do (including the very rude and crude police personnel porting their uniforms and their batons with whom I took PANGA all alone in front of a ‘passive’ crowd the last time I was in Chennai when the ‘NAPUNSAK’ non-masculine-man PM was visiting the city) I could commit MURDER without any compunction !!!One thing I cannot and will not stand is RUDENESS – I do not mind ‘being taken for a ride’ BUT will ‘snap back and take up arms ‘ against rudeness!
        To my mind comes the beautiful Kabir Doha-
        meethi baani boliye,man ka aapaa khoy,
        teeko phool ke phoole hain aur bako hein trishool!!!!!
        मीठी बानी बोलिए मन का आपा खोय
        ताको फूल के फूल हैं बाको हैं त्रिशूल

        Why have we forgotten out INNATE AND INHERITED COMPASSION AND KINDNESS?????
        In Mumbai I have met autoricksahwalas with whom I have even conversed poetry and philosophy!
        Sweet words are soothing and they do not cost money!

  26. Smitha said

    Transportation – that is one of my biggest problems in India. In the UK, I would drive, walk( easily if the distance was under 2 miles) and just hop on the bus whenever I felt like. It was far easier taking the bus to some places like the city centre than driving. Here, the autos – well, less said the better. The only way I can survive is planning my tasks, getting a 4 hr cab and trying ot get most of the work done. Taking an auto is almost as expensive and far more infuriating.. I so miss UK when it comes to public transport. And walking is no less hazardous – what with people driving on the wrong side of the road, and potholes. Sigh!

  27. srividhya said

    Hey.. Thanks for visiting my blog 🙂 You have a great blog and lot to read. Were you in Bay area? We moved to fremont last year… Hope you are enjoying your life in India.

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