Friday, April 09, 2010

Congeniality in Mumbai

The people you interact with while commuting, to a very great extent make or break your mood for the day. So, a grumpy cabbie or a rude bus conductor has the potential to keep you grouchy throughout the day, and you wouldn't even realize why you're cranky all day. So, a pleasant demeanor honestly means a lot.

I, for one, swear by the friendliness of Mumbai's support system. Be it bus conductors, cabbies, guys at the ticket counter in railway stations, auto drivers, everyone. I remember, once, several years ago, I had forgotten my purse at home and had boarded the bus to college. I hunted frantically in my bag, for my purse, but couldn't find it. I told the same to the bus conductor. As per rules, he could have told me to get off. But instead, he let me go on to my destination and gave me a ticket and paid for it himself! I was honestly touched by the gesture.

Again, cabbies in Mumbai are very very mild mannered. If you seem interested, they engage you in a conversation about their cars, the weather, perhaps even their kids! Like the other day, one cabbie told me that the heat in the city was going over the roof, and so, several cabs were stalling midway! Then came a lengthy discussion on the flipsides of global warming!!! Another cabbie, once spoke about his kids, and how he educated his daughter such that she then went on to work in the UK! And by and far the best thing about autos and cabs in Mumbai is the fact that you can travel in peace, without worrying about a prospective bout of haggling. The numbers shown by the bright LED lights, defines what you pay. No one-and-a-half, or 'Pathu ruva potu kudungama' (10 rupees over and above the meter), or even haggling for a 10 minute auto ride.

Not meaning to be disrespectful or biased towards any particular city, but one thing I've noticed in smaller cities is the gross lack of respect towards a customer. So, once, I was commuting a short distance and as was wont in that city, we were haggling over how much we'd be willing to pay. The auto guy literally lost his temper and screamed at us saying, if you can't pay 50 bucks, walk the distance! Don't chew my brains. Being the thoroughbred Mumbaikar, I was shocked at the remark, since I could not imagine being spoken to like that in Maximum City! And that was when I realized that when a place grows from being a town to a city to a metropolis to a megalopolis, one, the people need to grow as well, and two, the support system needs to grow and understand the intricacies of people skills and dealing with customers! Perhaps Mumbai is wayyyy ahead on that learning curve and I thank God for that!!!

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