I generally do not converse with strangers, but this time, the traffic jam was too boring for me to keep quiet. It was then that I realized that sometimes, we come across people who are much more than what they appear to be.
Often due to my language barrier, weak persuasion skill and ignorance about the routes, rickshaw wallas used to charge more fare than it was. Either they took a different route or intentionally drove slower to accelerate the value of the meter. But, I never had any other choice.
As I used public transport and rickshaws for my basic transportation needs, I never really relied on cab services, like Ola or Uber. This decision was because of their hefty fairs – and above it, the ever-surfacing crimes by the drivers. Even though owing to the full tracking options, travelling in cabs is considered rather safe nowadays, the fear does not go away. In a nutshell, it was rare that I hired cabs for my transit.
But then came the revolutionary service of the Ola auto. Initially, I didn’t believe in it, but gradually, I realized that it was an auto itself, after all – and so, it can be worth trying. The satisfaction of riding in an auto, backed up by the relief of not being forced to pay extra, was my incentive.
One day, I had to catch a train, and I decided to call an Ola auto. They were going to charge me ₹29 for four kilometres.
I always wondered how they survived in such minimal amounts and if they ever benefited from this offer. This ride answered all my questions.
Reluctantly, I started a conversation with this decent-looking driver who was trying hard to manoeuvre through the traffic to help me reach the station on time.
“There is so much traffic here all over the city, how do you people manage on such stressful roads?” I asked him.
To this, he replied, “No, it is not like that. It is very comfortable for me. I do not take rides to places where there is a lot of traffic, it hampers my ride calculation. If I get a ride then and there, it’s okay, otherwise, I come back.”
“How does this 4-kilometre offer help you?” I asked.
“It is very convenient, the company pays us well, apart from what customer pays, the balance money which should be there according to the general fare (meter value) is paid to us by the company. It is a win-win situation for all the three, the customer – as he gets the ride cheap, the company – as they have got a tremendous shoot up in auto rides, and for us, since we get our due money, which, in normal days, varies drastically.
For every 30 rides in a day, we are paid ₹400 daily over and above the amount the customer pays us. Similarly, we earn about ₹150 for 10 rides, and so on. So if the customer pays us less, availing the various offers the cab company offers them, the loss which we incur, is paid by the cab company. So we have no problem in taking rides,” he said.
“Are you happy?” I asked.
“Yes, I cannot ask for more. I love my work. I have been employed with Ola for five years now. I think I was the second or third auto driver to be hired by them in this city. I have taken around 5,000 rides with Ola so far. The best part is they reward us well. I have received two gold coins also, for my service. The company is good.”
I also enquired about the mobile phones these drivers had, since I often wondered how they could afford such expensive-looking smartphones.
“They provide us phones for some time, till we can buy our own phone. Often they also pay half of the amount required to buy one. The data pack is always provided by the company for free. I took a phone and data pack from them in the beginning. But when the phone broke, they gave me half the amount for a new one. For internet, I just use Jio.”
I often felt sympathetic for these rickshaw wallas, thinking that their income was dependent upon our rides. But after this, I was really happy to know that in some way or the other, even if for their own profits, cab companies are making a difference in the lives of such people.