14 October 2011

Chennai: My First Impressions

Let’s start with the infamous Chennai autos.

When we exited from Central (which is Chennai railway station), Sathya asked the guard for directions to ECR & then “How much for auto to CMBT?”

The guard asked,” Why auto? Take Bus - 15G. Auto BIGGG money.”

It amused us to notice how he said “big” He was being considerate & kind to us by forewarning us. Thank you - Guard at Central.

That’s your first intro! That’s how the impression builds up about the autos being bad. Even the locals don’t prefer them & after 4 days of being in Chennai, I am wondering aren’t they the ones adding to the negative publicity around the poor auto guy? I have noticed when the people in Chennai direct you to the nearest bus stop, they always say, “walk. Here only. No auto. Why auto?”Once we walked all the way from Sowcarpet junction to almost near Rippon building because someone said, “here only – 5 min”! And this was at 7 in the evening! You get a feeling that, more than the aversion to highly overcharging autos, it’s their thought of why waste money when you can walk over?

We didn’t face any major problems with the autos. Swear. Except that one time when returning from the Royal Plaza hotel near Koyembedu, an auto said, Rs 100 to the bus stand which is on the other side! Sathya refused, offered to pay the actual price & was walking away when the auto guy shouted, “Poda” (Go). Not one to be cowed down or to let an abuse go to waste, Sathya shouted back, equally rowdy like, “Hogo” in Kannada. One word more & there would have been a real showdown.

But that was a one-off case. Most of our other encounters were amusing, to say the least. We would enquire, before hand, with a person standing nearby as to the actual fare to a given place & when the auto guy would quote 3-4 times more, Sathya would say in his trademark Tamil mixed Kannada mixed English mixed Hindi, “yennna saar? Nimma auto beda. Just drop bas.” Then he would offer to pay the exact fare & the auto guy would hesitate & when we’d walk away, he’d say, “vara saar” & we’d hop on & then Sathya would talk to them about Mankatha the movie we just watched or about the nearest beer shop, or about the scores in the then ongoing Champions league or generally about Bangalore. Almost all of them would engage in friendly banter, in return & when we’d get off, they’d accept the money with a smile.

Once after shopping in Sowcarpet, we came near Central & Sathya was looking for restaurants to booze. There were NONE around! There were bars. There were hotels. There were no restaurants that served liquor or where families could go. One auto guy explained the rationale behind it, “Drink in bar, eat in hotel. Separate, separate. No family” Sathya asked almost 10 autos “thanni yevla karikarda?”, accompanied by the hand gesture of course!

We even called up Just Dial & found a pub & the pub guy spoke to the auto guy about the address & everything was ok but then one hitch. No children allowed. Sathya made a puppy face & said to the auto, ”Yella ok. My daughter – chinna problem!!” The auto had waited for us for more than 10 min but when he went off, he was laughing at the whole situation. He must be thinking this huge, crazy man from Bangalore dying for beer! Once, Sathya stopped an auto just to ask him for match-stick to light his cigarette & when the auto asked, "Yevla pova", Sathya said, “Bus” pointing to the bus coming behind. He shook his head & laughed.

They do have a sense of humor.

Sathya with his hard earned mug of beer in Royal Plaza Hotel - Koyembedu - FIIIINALLY :)


  1. he he hehe I liked that .. you see what a man has to do fo a pint of beer :)

    and yeah walking is good burn those calories that you get drinking the beer :)


  2. @Bikram: ya! i empathize with you poor lot :)

    believe it or not, he dropped from 109 kgs to 104 in 2 weeks after his return from there

    the walking, the weather & the eternal search for a pint did wonders for the weight :))

  3. See I knew it .. good you empathise wish more started doing it tooo :)

  4. Looks like you enjoyed your vacation a lot :)
    And every place has its own share of uncouth and rowdy auto guys, so Chennai is no exception I guess
    And poor guys, what they don’t do for a pint… Now only, if they understood our passion for shopping: P

  5. That is a lot of experiences in such a short post. :) I liked the "Poda-Hogo" encounter. I'm sure the auto driver also did not want to proceed further with the dialogue-baazi. Chennai is a good city for food. You get all kinds of food there. Much like Bengaluru.

  6. heheheheh atleast he knows the language small small, i was charged 350 from e.a. mall to medavakkam.

  7. ah well! my experience with chennai auto guys has only been horrible so i want to tell them PODA and a friend poda is not just go :P it is infact an insult,no?

    hogo :D i learnt kannada today :D

  8. Chennai autos never run on meters. It is 'Auto'cracy there. I have experienced it.
    But, there are people who are good also. We tend to miss them in the crowd. Glad you brought them forward to introduce!
    Poor Sathya!! :D

  9. it is not only the fare that is irrational but also the way they drive makes u want to talk to your people back home so badly...lest you dont meet them again O_O ...But they are the reason I learnt Tamil :D :D...SuJu you have really inspired me to do a post on my Chennai stay... :) :) hopefully i will write it...

  10. Haha! Sathya seems to be a highly enterprising person! My dad and mom hardly ever take an auto and always proudly say "I walked alllll the way!" Worst part is when they make me also walk/wait with them while I keep pestering "Amma autola pola! pls!"

    U know in Chennai loonngg time back there was infamous criminal called "Auto" Shankar. Not sure if u've heard of him but supposedly he used to kidnap women in his auto, take them to a remote location (which incidentally is on ECR, although quite well populated today, you can image how desolate it must have been several years back), rape them, murder them and buried them in the walls of his house. See here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_Shankar

    So my dad was paranoid abt letting me go by myself in an auto-and sub-consciously his fear transferred to me too! It doesn't help that I am really bad with directions either!

  11. I have bad memories of Chennai.Once in Chennai i committed BIG mistake of asking address in hindi,i was directed to proceed in exactly opposite direction by not just one but 4 different ppl,i could manage to locate address after 2 hours of loitering around.Later i found that i was just below the building when i first asked for help.

    I really liked pint part..Ahh really i could relate to his pain of not able to find his pint.

  12. @Prasanna: aha! connecting beer with shopping? smart gal :)
    true we've all kinds everywhere. we should just be lucky/unlucky to meet them

    @Nona: On food - another post :)

    @Madhav: i know i know Madhav. we'd heard of such horror stories & had gone almost on high alert mode & took adequate precautions. Rs 350 - bapre baap!

  13. @Chintan: yup, poda can be said in a revolting way
    kannada gottilva? you dont know kannada? didnt learn when you were here? :(((
    i know, most of them have only bad experiences with chennai autos

    @Sahana: true. but u know, even in Udupi/Mlore, my native,no meters but the difference in experience is too much b/w chennai autos & there. yes, a few are ok, even nice. just have to lucky to meet them

  14. @Sunita: haha we didnt meet any of those F1 drivers :))
    that is the good thing about them. thanks to them, outsiders take the pains to learn Tamil. doesnt happen here in Blore :(
    yes, you should post one. will wait. along with the book on "convincing mom for marriage" :)

  15. @Anne: yes Anne i could sense that pride in many - walking all the way thing

    auto shankar - didnt know about him. followed the link & was surprised to know he blamed it on films!!

    ECR in those days - yes, must have been a haven for criminals. can understand your dad's concerns

  16. @Vinod: we had heard of similar stories from Sathya's friends who spoke in Kannada. they dislike Kannada as much as they do Hindi is what people told us. its really bad when they do that, & strangely 4 different ones at that! and to think you were at the right place to begin with - horrible experience

  17. Autos? Now When Did I last travel by one? A year, maybe! Auots in Chennai, No No!

  18. That's true. The 1st quote is always 3 to 4 time the actual charge.
    1 of my friends payed Rs.120 from the bus stand to the hotel just ~300 M far. Auto guy took him around town for a while and returned back to the hotel.

  19. Well, it certainly sounds like they have a sense of humor! Lol And it sounds like you guys have one as well, and kudos for you for not letting those auto folks walk all over you :)

    I can honestly say I've never seen anything like one of those little autos before! Quite interesting :)

  20. @Ashwini: a year? hmm. u can drive your own car lady. why would he depend on autos now! sigh! envy!

    @leo: too much too much! thank heavens we knew they'd do that & so were very alert

    @Kayla: sometimes, rude people need to be dealt rudely. giving the other cheek doesn't work :) and though i am not, my husband is pretty good at that

  21. Auto drivers everywhere are the same!

  22. @Rachna: Chennai autos are a class apart!

  23. I am living in Chennai for more than 40 years. I give below my observations:
    1. Auto men never put the meter and they will charge exorbitant amount even for very short distance.
    2. Call Taxis are cheaper than autos for long distance journeys. And of course you have got Air conditioned buses also for long distances at reasonable rates.
    3. Hot drinks are not served in all hotels but served in three star,five star hotels. In all liquor shops there will be a place for drinking but not advisable to drink with family.

    Your narration of your experience is superb and waiting to see ur other experiences.

  24. @Saibaba: a lifetime in chennai- 40 years is! who can know the city better than you?
    thank you for your accurate observations & your compliments :)

  25. Even i was warned about the infamous Chennai Auto wallas , but my encounter with them all along during visits to Chennai have been good . Tamilnadu don't have Bar and family restaurant concept at all.

  26. Hey Sujatha.. nice post..! I am from chennai and I loved this post.. they are alright fellows I accept too.. but they overcharge and now a days you have something called share auto.. bigger than the normal one.. where you have to sit stomp and sweat..... compared to them autos are far better..

    And you better half was witty enough to solve issues in a friendly manner too..

  27. The auto guys in Chennai want to work the least and earn the most. Well, who doesn't find such a work-philosophy interesting? We are actually learning a few things from them! :)

    On a serious not, if they find that charging by the meter is not working out, they have a union and they ought to represent their case and get the meter charges increased.

    Instead of that, if they start charging people based on their dress, color etc the whole auto industry is going to get hit (as it has in Chennai) and people will try to avoid their services to the maximum.

    Destination Infinity

  28. @Team: isn't that surprising - the absence of family restaurants with bar attached?

    @KP: yes, they overcharge like their autos were golden chariots :) . in Blore, the autos refuse to come where we want to go! as for fare, Rs 17 is the meter rate & if they ask Rs 20, around-off figure, that itself we people cant bear :))

    @Destination: i guess the realization that, their industry is being hit & people are avoiding them like the plague, is what has caused the slight change in their attitude. we didn't have too many unpleasant encounters. they must be slowly coming around

  29. tats all.... or is there something coming more...???

    Oly about autos ??

    Autowallas are same everywher...

  30. I had the traffic and the vehicles in Chennai!! And autos do make a wholesome money!! I agree with the guard at the station!! Auto's are biiiiiiiggg money!! :P

  31. If your kid was mature enough to understand this road side beer experience in Chennai, obviously she would have teased ur hubby right in front of the auto driver. Thank God...she is just a kid. May be in the days to come, when ur kid has grown up, u can tell this beer story to her and make her laugh. ha, ha, ha
    From: sriramnivas.wordpress.com

  32. this was interesting.. good thoughts to deal with auto people

  33. You've put forward a different, hidden, 'countable' auto wallas in Chennai... *yippie*

    The only thing I don't like is, there's no meter system here. Every time you board an auto, you gotta negotiate.. hmmm But urs seem to be a good experience.. (fb fb cues and i'm lovin it) :) :) :)

  34. @Sourabh: no. there's more. a post before this post & one after this too.
    autos being same - not really. chennai autos are in a league of their own.

    @Deepthi: haha yes biiggg money

    @Sriram: yup, maybe so :)
    the many uses of a blog!

    @Shrinidhi: you haven't dealt with chennai autowallas yet? good. then this is a info laden post for you :)

    @Anand: countable - definitely. we were indeed lucky for our "good" experiences :)
    as for meters, even in my native city, no meters but neither are they so rude nor do they charge sky high rates.

  35. Chennai ,wow !I have never been there .Even out here autorickshaws don't follow meters and few years back they were known for their rudeness.Now with increasing number of self owned cars they don't get enough passengers.As for now we are enjoying reasonable rates and good behavior .Enjoyable read.Happy Sunday .

  36. @kavita: yes guess only decreasing passenger numbers will bring some sense into them
    its hard to believe Assamese can be rude, even autos for that matter. every single Assamese person i have met/seen/interacted with extremely soft-spoken

  37. Hey Sujatha,Ha ha...nice post..I am also from chennai.love this post.

  38. hi...
    its so funny 'nimma auto beda just drop bus'
    nagu banthu.
    mobile version template enable maadri..

  39. Every city has good and bad autowalhas. I am glad that you met a few with sense of humor .. that is absolutely needed for survival :-)

  40. So much walking. No wonder Sathya was thirsty!

  41. @Prabhavathi: thank you Prabha :)

    @chitra: what is mobile version template?!! and no idea how to enable it!! pls tell me. i'll do it.

    @aativas: yes humor can lighten the situation

    @salaam: true!
    the amount we have walked in Chennai is incredible!

  42. I landed in Chennai for the first time some 5 months ago and trust me, its been a really bad experience with the auto guys. As much as I try to steer clear of the negative perceptions about this city, it comes to haunt back every now and then. But they as they say, every city has its own pros and cos :)
    Nice post!!

  43. @Ashutosh: that's sad to hear Ashutosh but this isn't the first time i've heard someone say so about Chennai
    just hope things will look up for you after a while

  44. Chennai auto guys have spoilt to an extent Blore too, the same culture has creeped in. Early morning we had to depend on autos though to CMBT from Egmore, Anna Salai and than to Central for return

  45. Nice one. I somehow had a hunch that you would address the auto issue. :) and you did it expertly well. And I am glad u had a fairly good experience with autowalas. I agree with you that perception overrides reality. I have also met good ones and a few bad ones occasionally.

  46. It's nice to read. Let me check the next one

  47. @Raj: "perception overrides reality" aah!i wish i had come up with that for my last para :(

    @Shukoor: thank you

  48. Shall read your post again before going to Chennai. Very hilarious post..Can't control laughing ..

  49. @Kirti: oh i am surprised you want to go there!!!

  50. I think you saved yourself by speaking local language otherwise experience could have different. I think I should take along a local guy who can speak their local language:)..What your advice should a guy from north go alone to chennai?

  51. @Mithlash: i am not sure Mithlash. alone may not be a good idea.
    luckily Sathya was mixing all south indian languages & managing it somehow :)

  52. LOL, love the way you write.... and your hubby has a way with people... looking forward to how he deals with people in other cities...

  53. @Santa: thank you so much
    if he wasn't there,the chennai auto guys would have happily taken me for a ride - charging a bomb

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