As an engineer, I always try to find logic in everything. After years of persistent effort, I finally concede – there’s no logic when it comes to hailing an autorickshaw in Namma Bengaluru.
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Autos refusing a ride isn’t uncommon in Bengaluru. But a few weeks ago I had my moment of epiphany when six empty autos – all going in the same direction – refused me a ride on the straight, freshly white-topped stretch from Silk Board Junction to Koramangala Forum mall. The distance – not more than 2 km.
That’s when it dawned on me – hiring an auto is not for the feeble-minded. It requires advanced and specialised skills. So here goes my attempt to unravel this dark art based on experiences so far.
Let’s go by category…
The stationary autos
The auto driver is busy checking his mobile: Does he turns towards you after you have conveyed your destination? If he doesn’t, it’s very likely that he would have let out that subtle twitch at the corner of his lips that only careful observers can spot. You should immediately move on from there and not waste any more of his time.
Auto driver reading a news paper: He isn’t responding? You may doubt if he’s heard you – trust me, he has heard you loud and clear, and he ain’t interested. Now you may be tempted to offer him one-and-half-meter. This is typically taken as provocation, and response may not be very pleasant. So avoid such experiments and just move on.
After coming across the first two types, you now have an auto driver who has your attention: If he goes into deep thought and takes more than 10 seconds to respond, you really need to get it – he is not interested in the ride, but is just making an effort not to be rude.
A group of auto drivers are chit-chatting: Probably marginally better than the earlier ones, but here the challenge is they don’t give you any direct indication. Typically, they just resume their discussion as though you don’t exist. Again, you need to ‘get it’ and ‘not exist’ at that spot soon.
The slightly more promising ones – moving autos!
Auto going in the opposite direction as your destination: If you wave at an auto going in the opposite direction, you are clearly starting your day on the wrong foot. Some of them can take it quite personally too. You may be tempted to think that the auto had stopped to check where you are going – no, he isn’t going to take a U-turn for you. He just wants to convey that you are on the wrong side of the road and going to the wrong place.
Auto going in the same direction: Here body language is not so important, as these folks are very decisive and quick. Typically, by the time you finish revealing your destination, the auto that was there, won’t be! They are better than the stationary auto guys as they make an effort to convey their decision explicitly.
Probability increases if you are very specific about the destination. For example, don’t give very broad destinations like ‘Koramangala Forum Mall’ or ‘Madiwala Market’. You will be promptly asked to clarify, “Madiwala Market elli?” So you will have to be specific – for example, next to the third vegetable vendor!
Now, the Silk Board to Forum Mall route calls for a special mention. One auto driver had got me completely excited that he responded before the T minus 10 second timer expired. But, “Right side or left side?” Ah! These small things we ignore can make a huge difference. You are now in a big dilemma. What if you picked the side that he doesn’t want to go to? No no, you can’t lie either – you can’t say “right side” just to get the ride and cross over. Cheating is not allowed. Be truthful.
The obvious assumption is that they don’t have a policy of not taking guys in blue shirt and black jeans on Fridays, but you never know.
So, for the patient reader who has read this far and is eagerly awaiting to see the secret sauce – here it is, finally!
The big secret is…to look the auto driver directly in the eyes, to not beat around the bush, and ask him confidently, “Sir, where do you want to go today?” There is a mathematically finite probability you will get a ride someday!