“Sathyam theatre,” I said, hailing an auto opposite Central Station. “Hundred rupees,” said the driver. “Fifty,” I said and he drove away. Within seconds, another auto slowed down to ask me “ Yenga sir”?
“Sathyam theatre, evalo ?” “Meter sir”
There it was! The mythical auto meter, for real. Thrilled, I hop in. “How much did that auto ask,” the driver asks curiously. “Hundred,” I say. “It won’t be that much sir. Just yesterday I took this lady and she said she would pay only Rs. 60 from Ashok Nagar to Mambalam when I told her to pay by the meter. I said, ‘Please sit, and pay by the meter.’ In the end the meter rate came only to about Rs. 38. From now on, insist on the meter, sir,” he advises.
“Isn’t the last date to fix meters only October 15,” I ask. “Those who want to make an honest living won’t wait till then. I got it installed the day after the announcement came,” he says. I ask him if I can click photos and take a couple of quick pictures on my phone.
Nearing Sathyam, he asks: “What movie?” “Not movie. Interview. I am a journalist,” I say, as the auto stops in front of the theatre. The meter reads 57.40. I give him Rs. 60. “Please wait,” he says, digging his pocket for change. “It’s okay,” I tell him.
“ Neengale eppadi sollalaama ? Pay only what the meter says,” he insists. He hands me two rupees and apologises that he is a rupee short. I forgot to ask him his name but I will always remember it: Change.