Monday, February 11, 2008


Recently,a friend of the Author was talking of the driver-drivee rapport that existed- or didn't exist, whichever be the case- between commuters and auto-drivers in Chennai. Which inspired the author to pen this post.

The vehicularly handicapped,in the absence of kindly transporting friends, have their sad lots cast with either the straight-from-hell buses or the ruthless auto-drivers who seem to share the same origins as the aforementioned buses. Considering the erratic and chakravyuh-ish nature of buses, especially during the rush hours, poor wheel-less citizens like the author are left to the tender mercies of the latter. The survivors of the Auto-Encounters can relate tragic and terrible tales of extortion,embezzlement, sadism and exploitation. Veterans have learned several tactics to counter the strategies of the sly critters.

Rule one is to never, never speak in English. That is the cue for a typical specimen to hike the price by a hundred bucks. No matter how bad your accent is, don't stray into the E-word. The only exception is of course when you are shouting at the dude. Then throw in as many as you want.Beep Beep Beep sounds the same in any language. Another useful tip would be to always carry big change. Auto-drivers are known to pull the 'no-change' gag time and again ensnaring a novice auto user into paying more just to get rid of them. Similarly always know landmarks and state the the destination at least three times s l o w l y. Auto-drivers love to take you for a ride (no pun intended). The last thing you want is a tour of the city when you have to get somewhere in a hurry. And then be forced to pay extra because you apparently said the wrong place and landmark.

Rule two,which should have been rule one, is: Always bargain. It is an idiot, a very desperate person or a rich lunatic that pays exactly what is asked for.The tips for bargaining are the guidelines for auto-security. Always lower the price by a minimum 10-20 bucks. That'll probably be nearer the actual price. The traditional method of loud haranguing, though very entertaining and often effective, is very time consuming. Also,there is no guarantee of success even after the investment of time. The League of Auto- Users (LOAU)have come up with some bargaining maneuvers. An easy method of arm-twisting is to walk off with a scornful smile when the adversary poses the outrageous price. The auto-driver will be pricked by the doubt that the commuter actually knows how far and how much to give-thus making recalculations and reassessments. Hence, a more reasonable price. The author has had almost 90% success rate with this ploy. Another similar method practiced by the authors compatriot Longlegs, is the "thanks,but no thanks" approach. When faced with a sky high fare, humbly fold your hands and bid the auto-driver with a saintly smile. The autodriver is not only nonplussed by the cultured behaviour, but also pricked by conscience. 'Such a nice person," they think "how can I trick them like this... I'm a disgusting thief!" at this point they will be determined to reduce the fare to make themselves feel better. Of course this works only with those auto-drivers who actually possess a conscience. Hence the success rate is not very high. on some sparse occasions,charm and courtesy have seen to bring surprising effects. The LOAU recommend the application C&C at the commencement of the negotiations, reducing the flow as they continue. It also helps to make the adversary believe that s/he has the upper hand even if you've got a sweeter deal. Deft usage of reverse psychology is the sign of a true veteran. Despite all these subtle strategies,if all else fails- start yelling. And always work on the principle of "there are more autos on the road".

At this juncture the author wishes to make a disclaimer. Not all auto-drivers are sly tricksters as portrayed in the preceding paragraphs. Some, admittedly very few, actually show signs of humanism. Once the Author, suffering from an uncharacteristic illness, was stumbling down the pavement in search of transport. The auto that the author waved down unfortunately had to go else where. As the author turned away shakily, the auto-driver volunteered to drive her to the nearest bus stop for no charge whatsoever. The author confesses to complete shock. Apparently,the world is not totally black.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Arabic Connection

To continue on the subject of foreign language teachers on the timely suggestion of my blogger comrade MaterialMom, the author moves on to the Middle Eastern Crisis.

An Indian school in an Arabian set up has a few set backs. One of them being the compulsory Arabic. From the tender age of six, clueless toddlers were thrown into the terrifying jungle of 'alef, baa, ta, tha, jeem...'. Actually, the langue itself wasn't too bad. It was the teachers.

The three witches from Macbeth were cherubic angels in comparison to the dear darlings who taught us. Their screams would've made banshees cringe and if only they'd talked a little slower- our arabic bad word vocabulary would have made Saddam Hussein blink. But they helped us in many ways. Especially during exams. But first- acquaint yourself with the studying methods.Students prepared in a simple,scientific procedure- if the first letter of the question was this, then the answer would be that. A similar method was followed in the case of match the following, true or false.. pretty much everything,actually. And then we'd learn exactly ten words with the different maathras and attachments. The meaning is meaningless to us, just mug. On second thought, mugging isn't even necessary. The students would simply copy words which happened to appear in the question paper as examples of usages. If even that fails, we can always transliterate names and stuff. A certain classmate transliterated mallu place names in arabic. This streak of brilliance was sadly lost because (a) they didn't get it. And (b) He used it in Give the Opposites, the stupid fool. And now we come to the teachers' help. While attempting (very important word)to write the paper, once in a while the sure fire methods would fail. But then the teachers come to the rescue. They subtly sidle their large forms and mutter a muted (read, normal speech)"This wrong. This and this right." If the student is still at sea, they'd very obligingly point out the right one. So if you actually fail in Arabic- either you are reaaally DUMB. Or the teachers don't like you.

Consequently, we students were able to read and write arabic quite well. Sadly the understanding and comprehension was nil. Rather a waste of eight years,you think? Not quite. We have a lovely store of bad words, and a knack for impressing people by spelling their names in Arabic( I don't know why, but it does) Also, most of us emerge good caligraphists(with notable exceptions such as the author). After all the arabic class was more like drawing letters you really didn't understand. We learn exactly how to charm our way through, our palms are strong and callussed from the canings... so it wasn't a total waste, right?

The author has always maintained that Education is the progressive method through which everything we need to know is replaced by everything we don't. Our Arabic validates this statement na-am?