I tried something differently this weekend and I must say it's been working like a charm.
Welcome to my my pedestrian and cycling world. So, when I have to go places where the bus service is not frequent I hop into an Auto. I also take an auto to work sometimes but that's a share auto: prices are fixed for various distances and there is no haggling. If your elbow or knee doesn't get sawed off while you ride spilling out of the auto with only a few feet of nothing between you and the asphalt, you know you have had a good ride. Compare this to an auto you have hired: all the room in the world but one mean negotiation before you and he agree on the best price. In my experience Chennai autos are the worst; a quick assessment of your dress and accent would nicely inform of them of your non-tamilness and from that point on you can only hope that you got the most honest of the rascals. Bangalore autos are attitude: they never want to go anywhere you want to go. "Too much traffic ma"; "Ayyo, can't come, it's one way"; "It will be too busy this time of the day" eventually leading you to ask "Swami, where are you going? May be I can get a drop if it's on your way?"
I like my Hyderabad autos for the most part. They are courteous and normally take me where I want to go without excuses and on the meter. But there are some silly twerps who think I just landed from US of A today morning. Matters are not helped by my living in one of the fanciest pin codes in town. For those autos who have traded the meter for x-ray vision goggles to count the money in my purse, once they have agreed to the destination they normally quote a price exactly double of what it would cost on the meter. Usually, I just increase the volume on my rant and then take off in a huff to find my next victim. This weekend I didn't feel up to the yelling so when I stopped Auto # 1 I sweetly inquired if he wanted to go to Begumpet. There were two others in the auto, so he first asked if it was OK if he dropped them to the end of the road; which was fine since I am quite gung-ho about auto pooling anyhow. Then I got in, at which point I realized there was no meter and a voice said 80 rupees. I suppose he arrived at this number by using his x-ray money goggles. It costs only 40 rupees so I immediately asked him to stop, smiled broadly like I was in a Colgate commercial and said (in hindi), "Sorry, but that's too much". 60 Rupees. Smiling even more generously I said "No, it costs only 40 rupees and I think if you are looking for that much you need to find another customer. Thanks anyway". 50 Rupees. No, said my swinging head and I started to walk. Auto followed and he persists, 50 rupees. I'm laughing as I tell him, again, that I will not ride for so much. He sighs, 40 rupees, get in. I tried pretty much the same sequence on Sunday as well and it worked like a charm. The key is two fold: patience and a huge smile. When the smile is without malice, innocent and loving in all its might, that energy reflects on any person you interact with. I have blogged about this before and continue to re-discover the positive effects of smiling.
I tried it this evening too, on a motorcyclist riding the wrong way on Road no 1 and almost knocking me over. I tapped on his shoulder and asked nicely if he thought what he was doing was right. He looked a bit shocked because I'm sure no one has caught him out like this. I repeated my question, smiled and waited. He was starting to form an explanation when I said, politely, that I was sorry to cut in but I asked a simple question - Yes or No. He said Yes and I just walked off. The sum impact of my little intervention: probably zero; but the quality of zen I felt: priceless. I get quite annoyed with anyone who doesn't respect pedestrian, ending up ranting a lot more and quite suddenly, I find that there's another way to get my message across and be non-violent about it.
Ho hum, let's see how long it lasts. But I do swear by the smiling technique; try it next time with an Auto and let me know if it works.