It was a lovely Bangalore evening, around 8:30 PM. I set out from church street with my cousins after dinner and decided to stop by for an ice cream at the place adjoining Rex. It happens to be one of those places that I tick off a list every time I visit Bangalore. The Italian delight is especially good and definitely not be missed. Of course, this time I had butter scotch, leaving the Italian one for later. With our ice creams in hand we set out to cross Residency Road and move towards Richmond Road. Plan was to continue as long as the ice creams lasted and then take an auto back home, all the way to Nagarbhavi.
We had just made it past Residency Road and crossed the weird triangle near St. Paul’s when a cousin declared that he won’t be able to walk a step further. All that we had dumped into our stomachs at our tongues’ bidding seemed to be causing a chemical reaction, at least in my cousin’s tummy. We decided not to risk the situation any further and promptly crossed the road.
Trying to cut auto costs down I made it to the front most auto manned by a guy looking like RKJ-with-hair-minus-the-weight meets Steve Buscemi. He heard all that I had to say in terms of destination location, which usually goes “Ambedkar College Nagarabhavi Mallathahalli Papareddypalya”. The thing is, I stay at a place that is kind of at the intersection of all these regions and missing out any one of these usually results in the auto driver claiming that I had brought him to that very particular place, which he wouldn’t have agreed to in the first place. And thus, having brought him to a place he considers cursed, and also having made him drive back a tiny distance without any girakees I would need to pay him 10 rupees more! All existence comes down eventually to the 10 rupees more.
Coming back to the topic, the auto driver, without even considering where the location was pronounced “200 rupeesh!”. “Chance-a illa” said I. It had cost me Rs. 136 on the to journey to the exact same spot and I figured 150 would be a good deal for the return. “150 kodtheeni” I offered. “Sari banni” he seemed to agree and as we took some reluctant steps towards the vehicle he came back again with a counter offer “sari 190 rupees kodi”. “Sumne time waste maadbedi namdu. 150ge bandre banni, illandre bere auto nodkoltheeni” I said firmly and asked the other guy behind him – “150 rupees kodtheeni, ambedkar college bartheera” I asked. The guy was on the phone and asked us to get in without as much as a “10 rs extra kodi sir”. I wasn’t so easily convinced and said “150 Rs”. He nodded. Still not convinced I said “Nagarbhavi hathra”. He nodded. “What’s the world coming to! There must be some catch somewhere” thought I.
“150 Rs jaasthi Nagarbhavi circle ge” he said all of a sudden. “100 Rs aaguthe ashte”. Now this was something unheard of. An autodriver telling me I was paying him more than what I should be? “130 Rs kodla” I asked. He turned back, gave me a pretty contemptible look and sighed “Nimmishta”. Already on the defensive I said “sari aaythu, 150 kodtheeni”, but pretty annoyed at someone questioning my knowledge of distances in Bangalore, I challenged him “100 Rs gella hogakke aagalla, at least 120 Rs aaguthe” I challenged him. “Sari meter haaktheeni, nodona” he said and did the half way left side turning back thing only auto drivers can do and set the dice rolling…er…meter going. And there began the challenge.
I realized that there was now a situation where the auto driver was trying to take the shortest routes possible, while I kept looking at the meter egging it on as it climbed higher and higher. I knew it was 10 Kms from Mysore Circle to my place so that was a benchmark for me. At Mysore Circle however, the meter read somewhere between 40-50 Rs and I knew I held a slight edge unless he took some weird shortcut.
He took the right at BHEL, which is what drivers do when they try to save time and distance, and crossed Chandra Layout and on reaching the circle close to NLS, which is some 2 KM from my place he turned back and asked “Nagarbhavi circle banthu, ellige eega?”. The meter read 102 Rs exact now. “Idalla circle, AIT hathra hogbeku” said me. He didn’t say a word, took a right and continued on towards AIT. When we got down, at a place where he could take a U turn, the meter read 112 Rs. Considering that I got down pretty early and that he had turned the meter on slightly late, I guessed we were close to 120 Rs, my initial estimate. I paid him the 150 bucks I had promised him, feeling pretty pleased with myself.
Of course it dawned on me later that my idea of where exactly is Nagarbhavi circle was different from his, which kind of meant that both of us were right about our estimates!