The ubiquitous means of urban transport in India is the auto rickshaw, a three-wheeled affair with typical top speed of 30-45 kph. Rickshaws are relatively inexpensive – about 12 Rs. ($0.25 US) per km – and nimbler than a car.
Last weekend I wanted to go to eat, and the place I had decided on was about 2-2.5 klicks away. Perfect rickshaw radius. Though I had been in Pune about 3 weeks by then, the opportunity and initiative to rickshaw had not yet come together. Then there’s a host of cautionary tales on the web, like this one, that warn of rapacious rickshawalas (drivers) who take advantage of rich foreigners (we all are rich, you know) by demanding outrageous fees.
The common advice is to hold the driver to the meter, like you see here. This one shows the current fare, the distance travelled, and the time spent idle. Many websites publish the official fare cards that say how much you should pay for any given distance. There’s even an app for that – at least I have this one for my Android phone.
Convinced I could outmatch any unscrupulous driver outrage for outrage, I sallied forth, turning over in my mind the repartee I would use to foil any such scoundrel. ‘Twas all for naught. The driver I met on the outbound journey was having a discussion with 2 young men. Turns out they wanted to ride but had insufficient funds for their proposed journey. With typical Indian practicality the driver suggested I let the 2 men ride with me, and then they would ride further on on their own fare. Off we trundled, and I found out my co-passengers were Pakistani students trying to get back to their hostel. Price: 30 Rs.
Coming back, I flagged a rickshaw walking right out of the restaurant – restaurants, stores, etc. are favorite haunts of the rickshawalas – and off we went. When we got back to my place the meter said 20, and the driver was very pleased when I gave him 30.
So, alas, no three-wheeled villainy here. Maybe next time, since I expect I’ll be doing a lot more rikśā sē jā rahā (going by rickshaw) in days to come.