Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Drivers : good & bad

Its probably a mere coincidence or I just attract stories.

So lets start with the sour stories first before I write about the wonder that is South India.

We're pretty seasoned travellers, having taken drivers to everywhere we've been, we basically know the ups and downs. The original plan was to take only 3 drivers but we ended up with 6. How did that happen you ask? Well lets see.

The first one we took was at Mysore to travel around Karnataka. Due to a train delay (will explain later) we arrived in Mysore 12 hours later than the scheduled time. We had a nice taxi driver in Mysore, had his car been in a good condition we would have taken him for the rest of the journey. We had picked him up at Mysore station in the midst of haggling porters and auto drivers, it was seriously mad to have 6 people screaming prices at you.

I had spoken to the hotel tour agents for a car and coz of the time limitation we couldn't meet the driver first. It was an elderly man who spoke very little or only when he wanted us to visit some shop he knew. He was a nice man you could rely on but the problem was his only aim is to make money of us. After the first few hours he kept insisting on going back to Mysore when we had no need to go there. Would you believe he wanted to take the longer route to Somnathpur via Mysore though we were just kms away via our current base Srirangapathinam. He was a bit miffed we wouldn't listen to him nor buy things at this overpriced shop he took us too. The tour agent had set a min of 250 kms to be covered in a day. So began this tussle between the both of us, me trying to get him to cover the distance and him giving a million and one excuses. He once even cited ghosts as a reason and bluntly told us he shouldn't be blamed if anything happened.  

Now if you're wondering if we overworked him, the thing is we didn't. Every place we stopped we used to spend at least 3 hours and we used to reach the stopover destination by 10 or 9 pm. He tried to get commissions from the hotels and at every stop you'd see him rushing in before me to inquire about it. If they wouldn't give him one the hotel wasn't good.

Our last stop was supposed to be Kasaragod, where we would take a train to Trichur. We arrived on the 4th night as planned but thats when he began to act suspiciously. More than usual he stopped frequently enroute Subrahmanya to Kasaragod. Right after passing the Kerala border and reaching the checkpost, he suddenly demanded Rs300 rupees slightly rudely which we quietly gave him though he had not indicated anything to us before. I was aware you have to pay at checkposts but didn't know it would be so much.

As soon as we reached Kasaragod we started looking for a hotel and he kept searching near the train station, we finally had to turn back as there was none and we found City Hotel. While I was going though the checking in process, he suddenly hands me this calculation sheet asking for the bill to be settled. I stood there shocked and was telling him ithu nalaiki pahkalameh - 5 days ku taneh car edhuturuhkehn. Then he tells me no, I want to go back tonight itself (it was 10.30pm by then) and I thought the woods had ghosts and he was scared of them?

Then he's put additional charges into the calculations. 350 kms between Kasargod and Mysore (I distinctly remembered 180 was the number we had agreed at the travel desk) and the hotel was billing us extra through him. So we headed of to an std booth to call the hotel in Mysore at that hour. Hotel tells me they had forgotten to charge me for an extra person, but wouldn't give me a bill for that (that too an amount bigger than usual) and couldn't answer me what they would have done if I hadn't taken their tours. I asked him to check the distance between the cities for me and he didn't know. Half way through the call, driver takes the phone says something and slams it down. By then a crowd of auto drivers had formed to watch and he started asking them the distance and a few actually said 100 much to his chagrin.

We got back to the hotel and the boys at the counter insisted it was 180 kms and he started scolding them. Finally settled him and sent him off packing after an hour. Thankfully in that time the darling hoteliers had gone out and bought us dinner. Later on we found out from them the checkpoint fee was only Rs 50.

The silverline from this incident was meeting the wonderful staff at the hotel and the driver they got us the next day. Mohan uncle was a really nice man, sweet and polite, he was always bursting with information to share with us on the various places we visited. I once casually asked Mysore driver about a legend and he tells me why don't you get a guide and that was the last we spoke to him on the visited places. He ended up being our favourite driver.

People at Kasargod left a wonderful impression on us. No one asked for more money than was required, no one thought women could be cheated, even the auto drivers and porters stuck to the exact amount that we stopped asking how much before moving. Even if we gave extra money they'd return it or tell us no. I basically had to force extra money into our porters hand as he had returned to help carry our bags into the compartment, something you rarely see in Chennai.    

Beautiful Kasargod and its wonderful people, memories you'd never forget, a place I'll always want to return to.

So that's 2 drivers, the other 4's coming soon..


F e r r a r i said...

But one thing I can tell you. Best way to visit Somnathpur is via Mysore though bit longer(Not very much). The Srirangapatnam road is horrible!

Maran said...

Hmm usually hotel drivers should be OK. Care to share the name of the hotel so others can be careful?

Hehe I like his ghost excuse!

My days(Gops) said...

may be, the taxi driver wud hav noticed u, tht u r from a foreign country...or else the hotel, from whr u hired the car, wud hav insisted the driver to do
so? who knows?

PS:- pavam'nga neenga.... better luck next time...

Keshi said...

bad drivers scare the hell outta me! Thank God I can drive so if I ever come across such a screwed-up driver, I'd grab the keys from him and ask him to go!


visithra said...

Ferrari : yeah I understand that though you see a lot of roads are like the somnathpur one plus when your driver wants to go back to Mysore for breakfast and lunch and return back everytime you tend to be wary.

Maran : yep normally theyre good - like the ones we had in ernakulam were gems - the hotel in mysore was - hotel paradi*se - its a tourist fav

hehee yeah me too - he could even curse us ;p

Mydays : everyone knew we weren't locals - they wouldn't even believe we were from chennai - yeah i think the staff n the driver had some understanding

awww ithelam sagejam but he seemed a saint compared to the last driver

Keshi : me too - but we've never had problems or more like we never had older drivers - so i think its the age that makes them cunning. I was tempted to grab the keys with the last one had he not woken up

Jeevan said...

There are some cheating Drivers in our Country, very shame of them. at least the Hotel staf are good. i have visited Mysore once, but dint know about Kasargod.

visithra said...

jeevan : there are some - at the same time there are wonderful ones as well - kasaragod is in kerala by the way