I've been travelling almost every week to Pune for the past 2 months now. Although I haven't had time to explore the city yet, one thing I have definitely experienced were the autorickshaws. And trust me, it had not been a pleasant experience at all!
I've been getting ripped off left, right and center by the conniving shifty-eyed auto drivers. Just yesterday before coming back to Mumbai, I paid 100 bucks for a distance of less than 1 KM. I was late for a meeting and had no other option but to comply. Horrible people indeed.
And that is why I LOVE Mumbai so much. Being a Mumbaikar of more than 8 years who commute daily in an autorickshaw, it is beyond any doubt that Mumbai autowallas are the best in India. They (usually) don't try to cheat you, and will always run by the meter (unless you're foolish enough to hail a running auto at the airport arrival).
Eight years travelling in an auto in Mumbai have taught me one thing - Most of us Mumbaikars are spoilt and ungrateful. We complain when some autos refuse to go to our desired location (usually during rush-hour) and even abuse them sometimes. Eventually, we are so used to having our way with the autos that we tend to forget how fortunate we are compared to those who commute by autorickshaws in Delhi, B'lore, Pune etc.
Yes sometimes it sucks when autos refuse to ply to your destination, but being a veteran auto passenger of almost a decade here in Mumbai, here are five reasons why autos may sometimes refuse to ferry you -
1. The balance between rush hour and commuters.
Think of it this way. You hate traffic jams. I too hate traffic jams. Even the auto driver hates traffic jams. Nobody likes traffic jams. But while you and I will reach our destination thanking God that we no longer have to sit in that frustrating traffic jam, the poor driver will have to continue driving in that monstrosity of a traffic jam. At least if he's able to pick up new passengers from your destination, then it's not that bad, but if the likelihood of picking up any passenger from that place is bleak, then he'll most probably refuse to go there during rush hour.
That is why sometimes some autos will refuse to go to high economic areas (for example SEEPZ-SEZ, Jogeshwari East) during morning rush hour where there aren't that many people looking for an auto from there at that time of the day. However, if the area is a large commercial area like a shopping mall or residential complex, autos are more likely to ply there because chances of them picking up new passengers after dropping you is high.
Again there are various factors like distance in the equation. My sister used to work at SEEPZ and we stayed at JVLR. It was impossible for her to find an auto to SEEPZ during rush hour, but those coming from far places can find an auto willing to go to SEEPZ because even if they may not find passengers from there, at least they have travelled quite a lot already (which means more earnings).
2. Auto drivers are humans too. They need to eat.
When we're hungry, we usually cook food, order food or go to a restaurant. Autowallas don't have the luxury of time to cook food or order food. Instead, many of them have these designated areas where they collect their lunch/dinner parcels from. And as some of the auto drivers have told me, some of these places have their own timing, so if they're late, they won't get their dabbas. You see those empty autos where the auto driver doesn't even look at you as you try to hail it? Chances are, he's probably on his way to eat. If you listen very carefully as he whizzes past you, you can even hear his stomach growl :P
3. 2 guys 1 auto.
Spend enough time conversing with the autowallas and you will learn that in many cases, different drivers share the same autorickshaw. They drive in shifts. So yes, sometimes an empty auto may not stop because it is time for the current driver to return the auto to the next driver. And sometimes they will not go to ABC location simply because it is very far from XYZ location where he is supposed to hand over the auto to the next driver. Keep all the in mind before calling him an asshole for refusing to go to your destination.
4. Limited gas tank.
Have you ever shouted at an autowalla for taking you to a gas station while travelling to your destination? It makes you feel cheated, naw? Why can't he do that on his own time and not on your time while the meter's running? But then again, he can't control his gas consumption naw? While there are autowallas who will ask if he can fill gas while you're in the auto, many prefer to go directly to the gas station. So the next autorickshaw who refused to even acknowledge you may be on his way to the gas station too.
5. The vastness that is Mumbai.
Many autowallas ply within their own locality. You don't usually find an autorickshaw from, say Mira Road or Borivali, operating at Bandra. That is because most people who travel this route rather do it by the local train as it is not only cheaper but faster. But on occasions where people do make such journeys, such autowallas look for ways to get back to their locality (their comfort zone), looking for passengers going from Bandra towards, say Andheri or Goregaun. Such autowallas will most likely refuse to go towards Chembur and Mankhurd side as that only puts them farther and farther away from their home.
So there you go. Five reasons why autowallas may refuse to go to where you want to. And of course there are many other reasons as well, like it will be difficult to find an auto during Ganesh Chaturthi, or during the notorious Mumbai rain where you will find many brave autowallas driving till they can no longer drive as their engine conks. All in all, let us appreciate the goodness of our Mumbai autowallas. As the saying goes, "You don't know what you got, till it's gone", this is something I'll really miss in Pune :'(