Dear Rickshaw Drivers of Bombay

Well, you almost were threatening to hold the city at ransom again today, until sanity prevailed at the last minute.

You know something, for a long time, I thought being a rickshaw driver is a very tough job. You need to know the routes (For a geographically challenged person like me, its a nightmare) you cant take breaks whenever you want, your family depends on you for money, you slog in the sun, rain, cold for hours together to ensure food on the plate, you sit for hours together waiting for passengers, you have to breathe in tons for toxic air in the crowded traffic of Mumbai, you arent really protected by closed barriers, etc etc etc. I thought it took great guts to be a rickshaw driver.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I lost all my respect for you guys. Honestly.

I stood for 20 minutes at Andheri station pleading to you guys to take me to work. and most of you just went off even without acknowledging the presence of a 80 kg woman dressed in bright colours. Honestly, anyone could have seen me, waving my hands as if trying to fly.

It hurts me that you have such attitude that you would rather go empty that take up passengers to not-so-long distances.

What is the point of being in public transport if you cant help out the public?

What is the point of driving a rickshaw if you cant ply to where the passenger wants you to go?

What is the point of saying that you need extra money if you cant take passengers to their destinations?

Where is it written that you cant take passengers for minimum fare? Where is it written that you will take people only who want to go great distances?

Dont you even feel bad for us passengers who resort to pleading, begging and even crying at times requesting you to take us to office so that we reach on time?

Dont you feel sorry that we may be late and it doesnt reflect good on us?

How much time in spare do you want us to keep? I mean, we leave at least 30 minutes in advance (30 minutes of spare time you know) how much earlier in the morning do you want us to leave?

Its really sad, that you people have so much ego. What for? why?

I agree, not all of you are like that, but unfortunately, a lot of you are like that. You dont seem to understand that we passengers are often as hard working as you, getting up early, attending to chores, working for 9 hours at work, going back home fighting the crowds of the train, and then if you refuse to ply us, it just gets to tiring…may be not physically, but at least mentally 😦

Even in the evening, while I saw 18 crowded buses go to Andheri station, I got into the 19th bus at the cost of getting my bag torn and having my breasts felt by a man. Its sad that most of you just went past without even stopping. I mean, here you are going empty, why cant you stop and ply us to the station. and I was not the only one. I saw pregnant women, old aged uncles and auntys, unwell people, all pleading you to stop. But you just went off with a sneer in your face and not even caring to stop. It hurts you know.

After a day of hard work, when you cant transport yourself home. Where you know a child and spouse is waiting eagerly to meet you. Please dont give me excuses that you dont get return passengers from Andheri station, because there also, I see people waiting in queues as long as the great wall of China waiting for rickshaws to ply THEM home!

Its sad that we need you so badly. Its really sad, that in Bombay infrastructure is as bad as the gutters. I am fed up.

Honestly fed up with your attitude, your refusal to ply short distances, your refusal to even stop if you are empty.

I seem to be losing my respect for you. Slowly but surely.

Yesterday I was so frustrated that for the first time in the 6 years and 6 months of my life in Bombay, I wrote this message to my husband ‘I hate this place, I swear I will get out of Bombay by September 21, 2013’

I may not be able to do it, but I must admit, one of the reasons why I will quit Bombay is because of the seemingly heartless rickshaw drivers. Of course, you may argue, who the hell is asking you to be here? unfortunately, in my case, just like yours, you will agree ‘Paapi Pet ka Sawaal hai’.


About R's Mom

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61 Responses to Dear Rickshaw Drivers of Bombay

  1. The Bride says:

    The problem is, R’s Mom, the rickshaws in the two other places I know about – Hyderabad and Bangalore – are worse. I think Bombay has a public transport problem in general that it ignores because it is complacent that it is better than many other Indian cities.

    As for the rickshaw drivers, maybe from their perspective, they are running a business and therefore cannot afford to be kind. Their margins may not be big so they need to ply on routes that re profitable.

    However, since they are regulated by the government, it is the government who should be enforcing rules and coming up with rules that balance the interest of the public and the drivers. Alas, this is a pipe dream.

    • R's Mom says:

      Well, I dont know about Hyd, but yes, I have been to Bangalore once, 5 years ago, and it was not too great..but again, the problem with the Bombay public transport is that its just not enough for the burgeoning population 😦

      But I dont understand how ‘travelling empty’ but not taking a passenger is going to help them with their margins 😦

      I agree but again pipe dream

      • The Bride says:

        I think it’s because the meter starts running faster only after it clicks past the minimum. So, for the short distance, after they pay off fuel charges, what they make is minimal and if they factor into that costs such as their own labour, the loss of being in a place you’re unlikely to get a fare back (and so they have to add in the fuel charge of trawling back without a passenger), they might be in negative territory.

        Can’t believe I’m arguing for the rickshaw drivers. But even in Hong Kong, there is a reluctance among taxi drivers to take short fares. So there seems to be a financial reason other than laziness and callousness there.

        The difference is that for the privilege of taking long fares, they are forced by the government to take short fares – they cannot legally refuse and a complaint against a taxi driver is taken seriously.

        That said, as a commuter, while you may understand the auto driver’s perspective, they are probably breaking the law even in India by refusing fares… just that there’s no enforcement.

  2. anonymous says:

    I have hardly seen any this kind of post of yours. You are always full of positivity. I always get surprised with the kind of hectic life you lead. Hats off to you for sending that fed up message after 6.6 years!! I could not stand Mumbai’s traffic even for a day when we have to come to Mumbai for international flights. Again with lot of respect and love, I wish your wish gets completed. And I think Australia is best option. 🙂

  3. Sumana says:

    Cool down RM, cool down. I know you get frustrated with such behaviour. I see this in Bangalore as well. At this time go read your everyday lucky posts. I so love them. But practically why these guys have to be rude is just out of my understanding. I can understand if they are driving the other way home or something and they refuse. Today and tommorrow being bus strike in Bangalore, i bet these auto drivers will have a gala time demanding and refusing to budge.

  4. Nithvin says:

    You think any auto driver is going to feel even an iota of sympathy for us passengers after reading this RM? Nah, i don’t think so..they are too thick skinned for all this..You have described what most of us who are at the mercy of public transport go through..The situation is no different here..It’s the same in most of the cities I think..While I agree with you on all the points, the only thing I disagree is that the auto drivers ply only on the longer routes. No ,they don’t..I stay about 14-15 kms from my office and it is a nightmare for me to get a rick back home in the evenings..I have even thought of enquiring the auto drivers where they are headed to instead of me asking ‘will you come to x or y place’..

    • R's Mom says:

      nope I am sure they dont care, but this just helps me take out my frustration 😦

      I can understand what you go through 😦

      LOL on asking them where they are headed 🙂

  5. Amit says:

    What! I thought rickshaws in Mumbai went by meters. That is what I have been hearing every since I was born.
    I think there is a number where you can send the number of the rickshaw which refuses to take you. They are not allowed to do that.
    I once had a heart to heart with a rickshaw driver in Delhi and he told me that they have loans to pay. I told him that he is not paying it, he is making me pay the loan for him by charging me more. And I too have a loan to pay and I am in no mood for charity.

  6. deepM says:

    I know what u must have been through RM!

    I too work in andheri, last year, it was my first day to office. I was standing near andheri station and begging to autowala to take me to J.B nagar but no one was ready. I was angry on myself why i took this job when i have to travel all the way from central line and stuck up here at station to beg in front of rickwala. Finally i called up my HR and told her that i am not getting any rick ,ll come late. Imagine, almost after 45 min i got a rick and you know what i did exactly same thing which you did that i too wrote message to my husband(that time he was my BF. :)) saying that why did you encourage me to take this job.i don’t want to do it.. bluh bluh..

    Since that day i am so much afraid to come by train till andheri. Its horrible RM.

    All i can say that is “paapi pate ka sawal hai.. ”
    Today i have heard that some morcha is there from rickwalas for fare rise.

    Tight hug and please clam down.

  7. This is one thing that makes me so scared to get back to India 😥 I hate wasting time and it is so easy to hop into your car, taxi, bus or train here. In India it seems like no one values time 😦

  8. summerscript says:

    Not just Bombay. Its bad everywhere. Such a sad state it is that if some auto driver behaves “normal” , I feel like he is some God sent Angel, today is my lucky day and I start thanking him and blessing his family!!

  9. My Era says:

    I am with you on how frustrating it is when rickshaws and even taxis for that matter refuse to give you a ride if your destination is at the minimum fare distance. I have had such an experience even at 10 pm in the night and the city was one of your favorites, Ahmedabad!!

    Tight hugs RM….I can totally understand your pain and plight….life is tough!

  10. You leave for work with thirty minutes of spare time? I salute you and all people in Mumbai who do this everyday.

    I’ve never personally experienced transport woes in Mumbai but having heard about them from various quarters, I can say that I truly feel for you.

    Cannot understand why those rick drivers do not want to ply short distances even when they are sitting idle. Why do they mind earning a quick buck? What do they stand to gain with such attitude?

  11. Hugs, RM. I can understand your plight. Just that I don’t know how to make these autorickshaw guys understand how it feels to be on the other side! Sigh. Hugs, again.

  12. uma says:

    I used to pride on the auto-drivers of Mumbai who’d drive to any distance, taking only the charge as shown by a largely non-faulty meter, returning the change honestly even if were to be a mere 50 p. This seems to be a lore of by gone years. The whispers of how this city has also succumbed to the auto menace like its southern counterparts seems to be have taken a uproar now 😦
    I know the city can still boast of some reliable auto service unlike the totally hopeless case out here, it is disheartening to note that the change is shifting to the worse slowly but surely.
    I used to miss the ease of hopping into a rickshaw and zooming to any destination as per my will and wish when I shifted to Hyd from Mumbai. What an irony!

  13. I can relate to this. I can so, so, so relate to the frustration. I have felt the same with the auto rickshaw drivers of Bangalore, too. I have often cried when I have had to travel back alone from work, have asked some 20-25 auto rickshaw-wallahs to take me home (I’m not kidding!!) at 8-8.30 PM, braving weird looks from people who passed by as I would be the only woman on the road at that time, and most of them would not even bother to reply – I would get a sneer in return. I have been forced to board buses that were overflowing with people to get home at least at 10 PM. It is a pity that these people are not willing to ply us home even if we are paying them money, in my case it is a long distance too. Their attitude sucks, too. What is the use of being in public transport if they are only inconveniencing the public?

  14. meenamenon says:

    Ho Ho! Now tht seems \really a heartfelt post! But yea u rt out public transport really goes to dogs! Lets hope ur dream of settling down in australia comes true soon….. atleast i hear daily life is easier abroad!

  15. rainmusings says:

    Arey RM,, hugs.. But atleast they are not as worse as their Chennai counterparts believe me. Though we have excellent public transport, it just not sufficient and ppl heavily depend on these autos.

  16. Sreetama says:

    Hugs dear! I can totally empathize with you. Here in Delhi too, the auto wallahs have so much airs & attitude, they don’t even talk to the passengers properly and they don’t mind using slang language while talking to female passengers. They just won’t go to any distance and demand for amounts when we find that we would rather walk till the next day than pay such buggers. I had even tried to take help of the traffic police but they seem to work under a symbiotic relationship!

  17. ashreyamom says:

    oh RM.. hugs re.. i know at times Rickwala’s are so rude.. in fact when i was in b’lore, the rickwala woulds top only if u r in jeans or t-shirt and pretend to be a non local. or else he wouldnt even stop to ask where u want to go.. and best part id they wouldnt stop even if you u shout you give extra.. they all would wait for 1.5 times charge to run the auto..
    but i feel vizag has this share auto concept where connectivity is really good.. you have loads of autos waiting to be filled at all junctions.. but only prob is, its another rubbing and sitting on lap scene.. 😦

  18. Maddie says:

    I so agree, specially that they don’t take you anywhere for minimum fare. And Andheri station can be a nightmare no matter what time you travel. I remember taking the company bus to office even if it meant travelling for two hours in sweating in heat and dust instead of taking a train and then auto.

    • R's Mom says:

      Errr…I do that also on days its feasible..take the company bus..but at times, when R’s daycare opens late, I dont have an option 😦

      Andheri is definitely the worst place to work…next job is definitely not here 🙂

  19. Nachu says:

    Hugs, RM.
    Trust me, Bangalore is terrible as well when it comes to Auto Rickshaw. Oh ya, as per the law they can’t refuse. Sometimes placing yourself near a traffic cop and hailing a Auto works in B’lore.

  20. chaitalichari says:

    Some rants are justified.. considering da time u spent on travelling.. its obvious RM, hope u find some solutions to your travelling probs.. btw why don’t u travel in ur office bus?

    • R's Mom says:

      I usually do, but on days R’s school is closed, I have to drop her to the daycare that opens only at I miss the bus and then have to resort to public transport

  21. Ashwathy says:

    The Bride has pretty much said everything.

    But then I have my share of grouse. I forgot my phone in my auto (my ONLY experience of losing a phone and it HAD to the one gifted to me for marriage – Samsung galaxy S2 😦 ). The moment I realized the phone is left in the auto, which is like 2 mins after stepping down and the auto driver had moved away, I searched high and low for the auto. I even tried calling the phone from my brother’s phone (he was with me then). The auto driver saw the phone, realized it was left behind, cut my call and switched off the phone 😦
    It still hurts to think about the incident. Not that he had an obligation to return my stuff, but still… 😐

  22. Smita says:

    Humph! What to say re!
    I have many a times faced such errant auto wallahs Earlier I used to say something to them & used to move on. But when i realised that legally they are not supposed to refuse anyone I state this to them & if they don’t listen I take down their rick number. You can complaint about them at RTO, In fact their is a site for it. Lemme search for it. You can also complaint to the constable. See these things might not work but there have been cases that they have worked so we shud at least do our but by complaining.i

    “To register a complaint, a customer needs to key in a complaint code (for example, REF for refusal), the registration number of the auto-rickshaw and the first four letters of the name of the closest railway station (for example, BAND for BANDRA) and SMS this data to 98690 89898. [The Times of India]”

  23. Ramya says:

    Arey RM.. cool down madam.. its not only Bombay… its everywhere.. EVERYWHERE… and imagine how it was today in Bangalore with the indefinite bus strike goin on… Normally only they are great great great guys n now, they’ve become Gods… If at all you are going out of Bombay coz of them then it should be out of India 🙂

  24. Shilpa Garg says:

    Oh my! What an ordeal!! Have stayed in Mumbai for 8 years and it was the same story then but my pleading/begging point was Kandivli Station! It was bad and sad to know that it is still the same after 8 years!

  25. I understand your anger at the rick drivers. I was in Bombay for a month and had to plead these people to take me to my hostel from the Bandra station. But, trust me the rick drivers in Bombay are far more better than the one’s in Bangalore. Here, they think the world revolves around them. Considering the sorry state of public conveyance in Bangalore.

    I guess we can’t do anything. And just pray for common sense to prevail. 😦

  26. rohini26 says:

    I can still forgive them for not wanting to go somewhere that does not make sense for them. But the rude and dismissive way in which they voice that refusal, or even worse jst ignore you, is what irks me

  27. Inscrutable says:


    Very nice and relevant post. I was/am also equally frustrated and wrote this:

  28. inscrutable says:


    Very true! It really becomes very frustrating because of these rick-wallas. Something, I also wrote on the same issue

  29. Sadly while I loved ricks, I also hated the fact that they could hold you to ransom. Particularly at places where they know they will get a better deal. I remember years ago when school buses had gone on strike, we had to take a rickshaw to school as it was a few suburbs away and we had to actually pay them the return fare too.

  30. Pingback: for whom the bell tolls

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