Ileave my car behind in the interest of research. ‘Journey One’ is to a friend’s house, about four km away. However, the drivers at the auto stand down my road take it for granted that I’ll pay the ‘usual’ rate. “But what about the new meter law?” I ask meekly. They look hurt. The oldest hobbles up to me like the star of a tragic art film. I can almost hear violins in the background as he sadly says, “Pay whatever you like.” Wracked by guilt, I get in and overpay. As usual.

With ‘Journey Two’, I’m determined to be tough. Unfortunately the odds are stacked against us. It’s 10 p.m. and we’re desperate for dinner. The restaurant we’re headed to is just 15 minutes away. But getting there looks like it’s going to be a challenge. The first two auto drivers we hail sullenly tell us to walk when we request meters. By the time the third one comes along, after a 20-minute wait on a dark road, we pay him whatever he wants: Rs. 100.

By the time I attempt ‘Journey Three’ I’ve almost given up hope. So I’m thrilled when the driver switches on his meter without being asked. Much to his amusement my friend and I excitedly take numerous pictures of it to post on Twitter. Net amount: Rs. 51. About 30 per cent less than what I normally pay for that distance. We hand him Rs. 60 and wait patiently for change. Long silence. Craning our necks to see why he’s taking so long with his wallet, we realise he’s SMSing on his phone. As for our change? What change?

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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