'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Same Side Of Two Coins

5 am. I walk down to the local motor rickshaw ('auto') stand and ask for a ride to the Railway station. "Fine. Half return" says the 'autowallah'. "Fine" I agree (Note: generally between 10 pm and 6 am, autos charge 50 percent above what the meter shows. This is not considered a tip. To my knowledge, there is no real tradition of tipping auto-drivers anywhere in India).

At the station, while getting down, I look at the meter. It shows 43.50 rupees. "Fine. That makes 66 rupees." I say, mentally adding the 'half-return', and hand over 70 bucks.

The autowallah takes the dough, touches his meter reverentially and says a silent prayer. Then he too gets off, mutters "no change" and walks off to a newspaper vendor. I wait; the autowallah returns in 20 seconds with a paper. Seeing me near the auto he says: "Told you, right? No change!". He starts up the auto.

I am not amused. "Of course, you had change otherwise how did you buy the paper? Give me the balance four bucks".

He says "I am usually around at the stand near your home. Collect your 4 bucks sometime!" and he is gone.


Return. Night 1 am. I get down at the station and flag an auto to take me back home. "Night charge will be there!" says the autowallah - a new guy. "Fine; half return, right?" I ask. He agrees silently and we start off.

As I get down in front of our 'society', I check the meter. It shows the usual 44 rupees. I count out 70 rupees and offer it. He does not take the dough but stares blankly at me and asks gruffly: "What is this?" I explain: "I added half return and a tip; the meter shows 44 bucks".

He says: "That won't do. This is an odd time."

I am not amused. "Look boss, we had settled on a half return. I paid it. Keep the change. That is it"

I walk off leaving the money on his dashboard. "Hey you! who do you think you are?" he calls after me "Do you think you are doing me a favor. Here take back your cash" and steps out of the auto, notes in hand. I quicken my pace of walking. He follows me into our 'society' (A security guard, who has seen the entire action simply watches). "Hey, take your money! I don't need it!" He yells. I keep walking, fast, in determined silence. He seems to be switching to expletives and I break into a run so that I don't have to hear (and bear) them ...


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