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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.


Carey said...

Good tips! Will have to test them when in Mumbai! :)

feddabonn said...

lmao @ "POLICE STATION!". 've never tried that!

for sheer conversational ability, though, i love the hydra baddie auto. spent many enjoyable evenings in horrid traffic- dissing cars, the chief minister, bus drivers, where to get good biryani, and other weighty matters. bangy autos make lousy conversation. what is mumbai like?

Anonymous said...

Reading this post, I kinda wondered how many Auto-wallahs you might've threatened with "TAKE ME TO THE POLICE STATION.. POLICE STATION!" Lolz..
I have a 2-wheeler, so I don't usually take autos, but when I do, I like chatting them up cos' they have a lot to say about stuff, like politics, the weather, ever increasing cost of fuel, etc etc..
In Pune, since none of the autos go by meter unless you're deep in the heart of the city, its best practise to negotiate the fare before getting in an auto.. :P

Pixie said...

Good tips! :)

The police station trick never works in Bangalore though!
and most of the meters are faulty!

illusionaire said...

@ Carey: lolz. Yeah please do when you come :-)

@ feddabonn: Haha! Yeah, trust me, it always works. And I think there are quite a number of Mumbai autowallas who make good conversations. I still remember one conversation I had with an autowalla... we talked and talked, and I guess he liked the way I was being friendly. So as I was getting off he told me, "There are two types of chini people. Achhi and Kanchhi. You're achhi." I really didnt know whether to smile or cry.

@ Blackestred: lolzzzzz. Yeah, I have threatened quite a number of them. hehehe... I also use the line: "What, just because I look different, you think I'm from a different place? I was freaking BORN here." :-)

@ Pixie: How come that threat doesn't work in B'lore? When I was in B'lore, I had a car so I hardly took the autos (and the cops weren't very strict on DUIs back then. lolz). And the few times I had to take the autos, I was fleeced of course, but it didn't hurt so much as it was not something I did regularly.

Anonymous said...

lol. great post, as usual.
from my short experience in mumbai when we visited last dec, i can also vouch that none of the auto drivers even attempted to cheat me. it was a pleasant experience to jump into an auto with the knowledge that they will take you where you want to go and not be cheated. unlike delhi where each and every auto driver is basically out to cheat you. especially when they look at you and think you are new to the city.

Anonymous said...

lol. great post, as usual.
from my short experience in mumbai when we visited last dec, i can also vouch that none of the auto drivers even attempted to cheat me. it was a pleasant experience to jump into an auto with the knowledge that they will take you where you want to go and not be cheated. unlike delhi where each and every auto driver is basically out to cheat you. especially when they look at you and think you are new to the city.

aduhi said...

ahh autos.. where would we be without autos and their cheating drivers?

I understand exactly your sister's situation, going to a place that is within the minumum fare but is yet a bit far to walk, which means no self respecting auto driver will take you by the meter, either you walk or pay what they demand. But the lovely thing here in Hyd is the sharing autos. Cram upto six people in an auto, each one pays around five bucks each, you reach your destination, the driver makes good money, clearly a winning strategy.

mnowluck said...

very long.. don't wanna read all of em.. LOL!
BTw.. why do you have that train thing in the autorickshaw tips? Alternative...? I feel like I'm gonna puke on seeing that ...Call me up and we can chitchat about this :D JK :p

what I love most about Maharashtra is -- autorickshaw wallas will never ever take you for a ride even if you don't know where you're going .. otherwise in Delhi or in the north!

and there is no haggling sort that's kind of smart! You tell em where you are going and they will take you there

Pune and mumbai rocks when it comes to Autorickshaw :D

benjamin rualthanzauva said...

I don't need to read these tips as I was lucky to have the man himself as my tour/train/pub/booze/leng/etc.. guide during my trip to Mumbai :-)

I fully agree with him on the nice auto fellas in Mumbai

codeAries said...

ka chhiar zo peih teuh lo, tha hle mah se :D Exam don zana ka zir nen a thui zawng a inang vel, seriously :D

chhangte_ll said...

'Trick 20' i nei nghah bik hle mai a..Lolzzzz...Nia, a pawimawh ber chu kalkawng hriat ani mai. Auto-Rickshaw sawi takah chuan Chennai an phakar ber a, a dawt ah Delhi. Kulkhut hi 'Share Auto' chiah a awma, a inbum theihloh ani mai ang chu. Taxi erawh hichu kalkawng leh a rate kan hre hneh ve tawha, inbum chu a awm lemlo.

Ngaihnawm tak hian i ziakthiam leh thina. Mahse Marathi ho tluka ka mihring ngei hi ka la tawng miahlo, an chawhmeh a tuilo thei ropui si....Huisssssssss....

dr_feelgood said...

The Delhi autos have a different trick up their sleeve. When you ask them to name their fare, they'll tell you'You are a local,so you know the fare'. Then your pride wont allow you to let them know you are actually new, so you end up paying whatever they ask you. Can't win!

Mimihrahsel said...

ka chhiar zo lo mai bro. I'm so tired :-)

I know Tamil language enough to bargain and fight :-D

VaiVa said...

Auto chanchin thu deuh i ziah pawh kan chhiar zo tho nih hi maw le! Kan vengah Auto awm ve lo mai pawh a. Taxi ho hi chuan min CHEAT mawh khawp mai. Zan lenrei haw tlai phei hi chuan... gate bulah han dintir dawt mai i la, a man hi chu an sawi dik tlang pui! Lolzzz

Mariuca said...

Boo! Did I scare u Sandman? :)

Hey, you made it to my number 3 top FC at MPG, congrats! Ur badge is up woo hoo! :)

mesjay said...

Yeah, autowalas are such indispensable part of our lives, aren't they? Though i don't do very much auto-ing, the few times i've done do give me the impression Mumbai auto-chaps are generally okay. In B'lore i've had to take a 'tough stand' with some of them!

illusionaire said...

@ Chaotic Serenity: Pu Ruolngul :-) thanx, hehe. And of course you eventually did not call me when you came to Mumbai last dec :-(

@ Aduhi: Ah we have share-autos here too at the railway stations. But I've never taken one, coz the place I wanna go is a place people usually dont go to. They service like a bus.

@ mnowluck: lolz. READ first, and then you wont ask stupid questions like why the train thing is in this post. Coz auto fares are mentioned in this train time-table :-P

@ Benjamin: Hehe... glad you had a great time here, though I will never forget the fine I got for dropping you in the train without getting a platform ticket!!! :-)

@ codearies: Chhiar zo hram hram rawh. BE ho chuan an chhiar thui theih kha. Just think its some compiler program code. lolz.

@ chhangte_II:lolzzzz. Nia, thenkhat chu an ngeiawm ve khawp mai, an nihna hi an chhuang em em a, mahse keini pawh kan ni ve tho a lawm :D Trick hi chu hai zeuh zeuh tur, min bum an tum hi chuan

illusionaire said...

@ dr_feelgood: lolz I have come across such people before too. Pride really does come in the way, doesn't it? :-)

@ Mimihrahsel: Chhiar zo lo mai rawh sis. You are tired.

@ VaiVa: Zana auto awm leh awmloh hi chu kei chuan ka hre ve lo, zan len rei tih vel hi chu in hrat a nia, kei chu ni tlak hma hi chuan kan mu dian tawh zel, naupang fel ho hi chu.

@ Mariuca: lolz Marzie yes I knowwww. Have been doing excellent this month. And more to come soon, watch! :D

@ Mesjay: lolz... Pi Mesjay. You and taking a tough stand! i inhmehlo eee, ka van hmu chak, auto driver in hau lai vel. :-)

faka said...

Useful tips indeed! I have visited Mumbai once and 'unfortunately' I didn't board the auto.. next time I visit Mumbai I would surely try because you make it very tempting now:)

Varte said...

Nice tips!!!

Mahse Auto' chu ka chuang khat ee.. Mumbai lo kal hunah hriat tur a nih hi.
Mumbai-ah khan ka U fanu a awm a, lo zawng chhuak la, lo hrilh ve teh, a pawimawh lutuk tlat... hahaha Mawl hmel ti raw..

(Taka, comment notification activate rawh i tih kha ka tum ve bawk a, ka thiam lau..)

Blind Dayze said...

Nice tips....the meter "pause" tip .. hope it works in the ones they use out here in Kolkata taxis..should test it...

And dont the Autowallas play Bollywood music real loud? this is what one has to bear with out here..unless the other passengers complain..

Varte said...

Hotupa, ah hian rawn mail hmasa zuai mai teh, i mail ka hre fuh thei lo.. Thanks.!!!!

illusionaire said...

@ faka: That would be nice if you give our autos a try :-) Believe me, they are the best here in India. hehehe.

@ Varte: Hotunu, check your mail.

@ Blind Dayze: I think the meters are standard, so it should work, unless you are using the digital ones. lolz. And yesssssss... autowallas here have HUGEEEEE speakers attached on their autos and they blast the music wherever they go. But one can always tell them to shut the music :-)

Shas said...

I wish the same kind of stringent system was here in Delhi, too. Wish we could complain the bout the troublesome autowalas.

Lianchhiari said...

You remind me of our days in Pune when we enjoy auto-ride so much that we bought sunglasses just to wear during the ride. Pune auto-wallas were also fair. I remember one time on month-end when money dries-up, i ride home alone in an auto from a fren's place without a cent. He waited outside while i withdraw coins from my piggy-bank inside my cupboard, he makes no hassle.

wonderboy said...

Trick hrang2 hi i ngah sia bum i har ka ring ngawt mai..haha

mumbai auto cc pawh tui deuh in kan chhiar a, ziak ngaihnawm thiam bik hle mai.

guwahati mizoram house bula auto ho hi an phakar a nia. mikhual hmelthar deuh te chu a let dueh thaw ten an lo chhiar thin a, fimkhur a ngai khawp mai.

benjamin rualthanzauva said...

"I will never forget the fine I got for dropping you in the train without getting a platform ticket!!!

O' Great Guide!

mnowluck said...

hahahahahahah @ben

Tharax said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tharax said...

auto drivers in bangalore r the worst who will seek every opportunity to increase the fare - rain, night, early morning etc. just a luggage even welcomes an exorbitant increase in fare. the autowallahs of kolkata will take u only to their "route" and you have to share with some other passengers which will greatly reduced the fares. i remember how 3 passengers plus the driver will sit in the front "row"... beautiful joyride.. nice there in kolkata.
in delhi, i dare u have to be tough to argue... it depends on your negotiating skills...hehe.
not only the autowallah, the taxiwallah of mumbai are equally friendly. they dont exaggerate the price to those who look "outsider" like me... may b i haven't experienced much... hey, the best auto ride is in gujarat... rs.3 can take u a long way... but it's shared ones... :)) oh gujarat... a place for me!!!

illusionaire said...

@ shas: You cannot complain there? I'm sure you can. Being able to complain but no action taken is a different topic, but there must be a way to complain. I was in Delhi for more than a year too, and I really really really suffered :-(

@ Lianchhiari: Pune apparently is also another great place for auto-users. Thats the impression I am getting from my friends. Its not far from my place too. Maybe I should go there just to check it out.

@ wonderboy: lolz... an phakar na chhan chu i hmel an hmuh vang aniang :D Bum awl hmel deuh hian awmlo phawt la, a dik vek a ni mai :D

@ Ben: lolzzz

@ mnowuck: Bleh! :D

@ Tharax: I've been to Gujarat but never got the opportunity to try out the autos. Maybe I should, just to see how they're like. :-)

arie said...

I like the "TAKE ME TO THE POLICE STATION" part.... Lmao..... :D :D :D Lemme try it out!!!

arie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
illusionaire said...

hihihi... Do try it out :D

parinita said...

has anybody tried out these numbers. i hope they work. i really want to get back at these auto guys for every time they said no to me. can somebody tell me if they have tried the numbers out.

Geneza Pharmaceuticals said...

Maybe competitive situation for people who work in this business in this city is not very good and so they use their attitude to attract clients