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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chp 256. A few tips regarding Auto-rickshaws

Why do I love Mumbai? If I was to answer that with just one word, then my answer would be “Autos”.

I’ve stayed for more than a year at all the Metros in India, including many other cities. And nowhere have I found the autowallas to be as nice and friendly as the ones in Mumbai. Of course there are always a few rotten apples here and there, so I am just generalizing for convenience’s sake.

Mumbai is one of the few places in India where autos run “by the meter” without even asking them to. I remember how much of a pain it used to be, bargaining the cost before boarding the autos/taxis at other cities. And when you don’t know the exact location where you want to go, that’s a couple of tenners more ripped off your wallet.

In Mumbai, it is pure Heaven - You will find no such behavior. And there is also a very high chance that he will not “take you for a ride”, figuratively speaking.

One of the few places in Mumbai where autowallas will try to fleece you, are outside local train stations and at the airport (arrival terminal). Autos hardly go by the meter from the airport, and they will also charge you a “luggage fee” of an extra 50 (or 100 if you are from the North East or a foreigner). You can solve this by taking a (more expensive) pre-paid taxi before leaving the airport.

Or you can simply go to the end of the airport arrival platform… By the time the autos move forward and reach you (they cannot park there as the cops will whoop their asses), if the driver asks for an extra charge, firmly say no and he will have no other option but to take you at normal charge, after all, he doesn’t want to drive out of the airport empty handed. Yeah, that is my secret and a friendly advice to you all.

Office day’s rush-hour is another difficult time with the autos in Mumbai. I have no problem getting an auto as my office is quite far from home, but my sister who stays within the “minimum fare” limit from her work place, has to be picked up by her colleagues as no autos will take her to work (she works at an SEZ area, so not only is the close-distance a factor, the autos will also not find anybody to ferry back from that place during morning rush hour. And during evening rush hour, there are many autos but none are willing to bring her home as she stays too close).

I love my apartment because our watchmen chase away all the autos parking outside the gate who refuse to transport the tenants. Sure, some of you auto-sympathizers may ask if the watchmen have the rights to do that? Well, first of all, that area outside our housing society is a no parking zone so autos cannot park there in the first place. Secondly, autowallas CANNOT refuse to take you where you want to go [State Motor Vehicles Act, Section 22 (d) 178 (3) (b)] Next time you have a difficulty catching an auto, find a cop and he will make sure the auto take you wherever you desire.

I know most of you Mumbaikars are skeptical about this because you feel nothing will eventually be done even if we complain, but some phone numbers are here in case you ever want to complain. Do let me know if it works.

Dare not say no when “for hire”


An auto driver can't refuse to ferry passengers anywhere, whether he is on the auto-stand or not. Complaints can be lodged at the police station, Traffic department or the RTO office and strict action can be instigated.

A fine of Rs 500 and suspension maybe imposed.

To complain about errant rickshaw-drivers, send in the details on a postcard to the RTO, Andheri or call the Andheri RTO on 26362252 / 26319821. The following details are necessary:

1. Vehicle number
2. Type of vehicle (Auto-rickshaw or Taxi)
3. Date of occurrence with time and place
4. Nature of complaint
5. Full name and address of Complainant

And what about tampered meters? Ah, that you cannot avoid, my friend. It’s human nature, I guess. But I had this conversation with one of the auto drivers once, and he told me that those autowallas who rig their meter do not ply during rush hour! When I asked him why, he told me that during rush hour, most (if not all) people take an auto to a destination they’ve been taking for a long time (office). So the commuters know exactly how much the fare will be, and hence will realize the meter has been tampered with. Wow! Insightful.

Another great misunderstanding about the autos is the “normal rate – night rate” system. I have come across so many people who don’t know how night charge exactly works. Thanks to Matt who told me how this actually functions, I am now a lot wiser. I can’t find any link regarding this online, but since Matt’s dad is an ex-IPS officer, I am taking his words for granted.

Here’s how it usually happens. Night charge starts from 12 midnight till 5 in the morning. Suppose you board an auto at 11:30pm and reach your destination at 12:10, most people usually pay the whole journey charge at night charge. That is completely wrong. And of course your auto driver will not correct you, duh.

Here’s what you’re actually supposed to do.

You board the auto at 11:30pm. At 12, you are still in the auto. You stop the auto, note down the fare amount, then RESET the meter and continue travelling. When you reach your destination at 12:10, you pay only THAT amount with midnight charge. Hence the total amount you have to pay to the driver is the previous amount at normal rate PLUS that small amount at midnight rate. That is how it’s actually supposed to be.

And of course it always helps to carry your own “Night Charge” table in case the autowalla’s version is an altered one.

I always carry this small booklet called “Pocket Local Mail Train Guide” published by Hemant S. Satam, printed by M/s Satam Udyog, which has all the local train timetable, auto and taxi fare list etc. And it cost just 10 bucks! You’ll easily find it at the local train stations. A must buy for everyone.

Another advice: There are those few rotten apples who will try to gobble as much cash as possible from you.

First, there’s the “gas khatam” wala. The moment you step into his auto and travel for around a minute or two, he will suddenly want to fill gas in his auto! And of course he will try to find a petrol pump with the longest queue. This way he not only gets gas (which he may or may not require) but also suck a few cash off your wallet due to the running meter.

Your response? Scream at him, “Bloody hell, you could have told me you were low on gas BEFORE I boarded your auto. Take me to the police station. TAKE ME TO THE POLICE STATION!” He will crap in his pants and gas will be the last thing in his mind.

errr… No gas, just crap.

Then there are those who genuinely need to fill gas. What do you do in their case? Simple. The meter is a marvelous contraption. Just turn the knob sideways and the meter stops running. After he is done filling the gas, turn it down again and it continues from before. Many people are not aware of this option too (yeah, like the auto driver is actually going to tell you what that option does).

And you always have the option to get down and take another auto too.

Then there is the “su-su” wala. He needs to pee. And of course, denying him to pee is denying him his basic human rights, so, again simply turn the knob of his meter sideways while he pees. He will of course grumble, but don’t forget to tell him to at least wipe his hands once he’s done peeing.

And finally, there is the “left or right” wala. If you look dumb or lost, he will definitely figure out you’re new to the place, so he will test your knowledge of the roads. Even though he knows left will take you to your destination, he will purposely ask “left or right”? Here it helps that you know the initial direction, otherwise you are nothing but a lamb led to slaughter. If you know its left, don’t just casually say “left”, because he will test you again later and you may not know then.

Scream back, “What do you mean left or right? Right will take me to the COMPLETE opposite direction. Who the bloody hell do you think I am? I’ve been living here for 10 years (just lie, it doesn’t matter). Trying to cheat me huh? Take me to the police station. TAKE ME TO THE POLICE STATION!”

Believe me, he will not ask you any further!

Yes, it always helps to say “Take me to the police station” because many of these autowallas ply without proper license or registration. They cannot afford to show up there. Even I don’t have the time to go there, but its one gamble that always pays off!

Last but not the least, there are those autowallas whose rear view mirrors (not the side ones) are tilted at an angle. If you look carefully, those mirrors are “aimed” at your knees area. Yeah, those are the perverts. The mirror serve just one purpose – if a girl wearing a skirt is sitting there, the perv of an autodriver gets to lech at her thighs. Always tell him to remove that mirror as it has no role in his work, or play the “police card” again if he doesn’t comply. What if your sister or friend is sitting in such an auto? Would you feel comfortable about it?

Do it for our Indian sisters, brothers.

But no matter how many incidents I have experienced, one thing is for sure – no other Indian cities can beat the autowallas of Mumbai when it comes to friendliness and honesty. Cheers to you guys.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chp 255. Music Monday: A Mizo Folk Song

Happy MM everyone!

This song is specially for my dear visitors from around the world and here in India - I am sharing a short Mizo folk song for this week’s “Music Monday”.

This is my way of adding some variety into this week’s assorted collection of Music Monday posts, and also to promote our Mizo culture in the global blogosphere. Hope you like it.

The above song is a modified version by “T.Melody”, a renowned band from Burma (Myanmar). The song further speaks about Zo Reunification. People from my state Mizoram [India] and the Chin states of Burma, including a number of places in the Northeast share the same ancestry. We all belong to the same tribe, but are currently divided by State lines, International boundary and a few dialect/language differences.

I still remember singing the original song with my mom when I was a child. Children love to sing this song. And this story was one of my favorite too. It’s about two brothers, who killed a python and found silverware in its belly. But they didn’t want the other villagers to know about it, and when the villagers asked them what was the sound (of silverware clanging) coming from their house, they lied and said it was just some worthless piece of scrap.

Liandote unau unau
Dar enge in tum in tum?
Dar engmah kan tum love
Liando bur chhete kan tum kan tum.


Liandote brothers, brothers,
What kind of bell are you ringing, are you ringing?
[Reply] We are not ringing any silver bell,
Just an old bamboo container (brass) we are beating, we are beating.

Carey Suante and many others said this is one of their favorites. So do I. This song absolutely rocks, and I almost cried the first time I heard this version, as memories came rushing in. Sigh…

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.


And speaking of music, I’ve been hooked to this site for the past few days -

This is my profile: Mizohican. Do add me if we are compatible or if you feel like adding me just for the heck of it

I’ve heard of this site a long time ago, but I’ve never actually tried to sign up etc because I thought it was just another social networking site based on music. But Vulturo showed me how it actually works so I signed up and have been addicted to it ever since.

I know, some of you may not like it if you are looking for a place to listen to free music, as you have to pay for such options (subscriptions). But to me, it is a great place to meet people who are currently listening to the same kind of music I am listening to.

Below are some of my favorite bands, mostly symphonic gothic. I know, I haven’t listened much if you look at my “number of times played” displayed below, because, like I said before, I am still new to this site. But here are my current top-something most listened artists.

Cheers, and happy MM once again!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chp 254. MM: See You On The Other Side.

One thing I have definitely learnt from life – The longer you stay single and not get married, the more “damlai lu suns” you’ll get.

“Damlai lu sun” [Mizo] literally means… “Mourning the death of somebody who is not dead”.

It is an “ancient Mizo custom” (though of course not the kind that is officially written down and strictly adhered to types, if you know what I mean) and I am here to share with my beloved readers what it means and signifies.

According to our tradition, when an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend gets married, it is called a “damlai lu sun”. It means she or he is dead to you because of the marriage with another person. And so friends tease you about it, fry you non-stop, and just like a typical funeral where you give flowers as means to pay your respect and give your condolences to the dearly departed, in this case, friends give you a 50 paise coin, 1 rupee coin, etc.

It is a very commonly practiced Mizo tradition

Likewise, this doesn’t apply to just ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends. Suppose you have this immense deep crush on somebody and that somebody marries somebody else, you’ll find your friends coming over on the day of their wedding and giving you 10p, 50p coins etc and acting “genuinely” sorry about the “sad demise” while trying to hold back a laughter or two.

[Example: OPa Hmar: Damlai lu sun – Mourning the Living]

And of course you’ll be the butt of all jokes for that entire day.

Such is the cruelty of our culture

Harsh, brutal, savage and barbaric. Friends are there to lighten up your darkest days, and they are also there to take your trip and make fun of you in the meanest way possible at times like this. Ah, friends.

But then, just like anything else, you move on, ignoring the jests and trying to change the subject. The only way you can ever avoid such a crude roast is to get married before your ex does. Lolz. But seriously, that is indeed the only way. Once married, your ex will be the one tormented by her friends, and not you. And you’ll also be immune to any further roasting because once married, you no longer have any “mourning” to do even if your ex’es get married later. After all, you now have your spouse.

So that is me sharing some of our “Mizo custom” with my readers. It is our intrinsic way of bonding with close friends, I suppose.

And to celebrate this Music Monday, I am dedicating this song to all the lovers out there, new and old, that whether you have an old flame or lost somebody you love or you are currently with the one you love, in the end, you’ll all be seeing each other again on the other side. And we’ll all be playing hopscotch together on that reunion. Lolz.

Here you go – my favorite song from Ozzy – See You On The Other Side.

Ps. I want this song to be played on my funeral. I’ve been in love with this song for more than a decade now, and I still am!

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.