Monday, December 08, 2008
Close Encounter of the "Auto" Kind (a.k.a. Auto, Arrow and Armani - Part 2)
Nov.5th, 2008, 19:45 hrs
I land at Chennai airport after a 12 day ordeal with my travel documents status quo. That left me poorer by 12 days out of 25 day vacation plan. Was heading to my friends place for the night and the best mode of transport for a guy traveling single with bare minimal lagguage was auto.
Promptly looked for a guy who didn't seem too marketing savvy (the kind who come upto you asking whether you needed a auto and giving you the liberty intially to quote a price for the destination and then fight with you for it!!) Luckly found a guy who seemed to be a misfit in the trade of auto driving. The price he bargained for dropping me in my destination was reasonable. I was in no mood to argue with fifty percent of my vacation having been blown up for paper work.
Out of habit i engaged in a conversation to find out what was happening in Chennai. A ritual i am accustomed to when ever i come down on a vacation. It seemed a harmless conversation when he suddenly made an appeal to me. He asked me from where i was and if i could or find someone help fund his son's education. He had already jumped two term fees for his son and was on the verge of being served an eviction notice. I initially stayed out of it, just listening to his story as a passive person would do. A few things i came to realise in that 45 minute conversation centric auto journey:
1. Cost of living had gone up. Just bcos the IT faternity are earning a fancy 6 digit figure (rather close to it) didn't mean that the rest of the population was doing so!
2. Education scenario has changed a lot. To afford a decent education for a 5th grade in an averge school you needed to be prepared to shell out close to INR 6000 - 8000 per annum. Per term it was Rs. 1500 (a term was made of 3 months in this case) and to top it up there was a capitation fee of Rs. 2000 that needed to be shelled out intially!! Just dawned on me that it would be difficult for people to afford education at this rate and educate themselves for 12 years was a tough task. I was lucky to have my parents help me out when it came to doubts on any subjects. But imagine the plight of first generation literates, to whom would they turn for help. Hats off to those who have educated themselves.
3. It was tough being a auto driver with no fixed income, security or insurance, or credit cards to fall back upon, with greedy traffic police on your back to fleece money out of you at any given opportunity and the commuter who could never really identify with them. And along with this all included no PF or pension on retirement.
Well, i was a bit hesistant to help him on the first instance. As an educated sophisticated guy, i demanded that he took me to the school, produced bills and the notices he had received from the school. The poor guy brought in all the concerned papers (he had intially proposed to take me to the school and meet the principal to convince me). Having gone through all the papers and finding it satisfactory, i decided to help him. I managed to clear one term fee out of the two outstanding. Will try to work out something for his son.
On deeper involvement, i got to know he was new to the auto trade. Earlier he was working in the hospitality industry as F&B service boy. He made good money at the star hotel and was able to afford education for his first child till college. About 2 years back the hotel shut down to be converted into a hospital as a result of which he lost his job. He migrated into the auto line and is yet to smarten his earning skills. It wont be long before he joins the "typical Auto" tag.
So what do I get to say at the end of this all: Not all Auto guys are what they are known to be?
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