Thursday, December 29, 2011


Natesan Park, Chinmaya Nagar, Chennai

Well, all of you must be aware of the protests that are happening around the world – all against corruption. The movements are generally termed “Occupy” movements beginning with Occupy Wall Street. I also need to mention here that they have all been a roaring success with the changing levels of energy on the advent of the Aquarian Age aka Golden Age.

My sister Lakshmi and I did our bit for the movement that I would like to call “Occupy” Natesan Park. This is a park that is right across my parents’ home in Chinmaya Nagar.

During my recent visit to Chennai, I got in touch with my friend Jayashree after 15-16 years and could not wait to go meet her at Adyar. Transport in Chennai is terribly expensive, auto-rickshaws fleecing customers. Since I had a long way to travel from Chinmaya Nagar to Adyar, I arranged for a metered cab from Friends Cabs.

My friend Jayashree and me
The taxi service is quite friendly going by their name. I got a call from the cab driver and went out to find a Tavera waiting for me. I told the guy that I was just one person travelling and how come they had sent me such a big vehicle. He told me that he had been in the vicinity and that’s why had been sent but the charges were the same.

He asked me whether I wanted AC and when I said, “No”, he switched the meter on to Rs. 120. I asked him if that was the minimum rate and he said, “Yes”. Not having been to Chennai in the past 9 months, I thought that must be it and did not say anything further. When I got off at Adyar, the meter showed Rs. 234. I paid the cash and insisted on a bill (I usually don’t bother) and the driver gave it to me very reluctantly (or so it seemed to me then).

In the evening, I booked another cab for my return and by now knowing what was required, I told Friends Cabs that I needed a non-AC cab for one person. A cabbie promptly got an Indica for my return journey.

He switched on the meter and it showed Rs. 100. I was surprised and asked him about the rate. He told me that that was the rate for a single person travelling non-AC. I told him about my morning ride and he said that that was probably because a Tavera was a big cab. I could not relate to the logic as it was only me travelling and I had not asked for a big cab. As the driver had no answer, I called the cab service.

No one was interested in listening to me. I called six times and they kept transferring me to the Complaints Department with no on answering my call. On my sixth call, I insisted on explaining my problem and one lady (Viji was her name, she said) said that maybe I could pay Rs. 20 less on my return journey. I felt that it was not fair as the meter keeps registering a different rate when it starts at Rs. 120. I had probably paid Rs. 50 more than what should have been charged me. When I told her that, she told me to talk to Complaints. I stopped her from transferring me and said, “No one is picking there. Get them to call me. I have called you 6 times from my Mumbai cell number. This is not fair to me at all. If I don’t get a call within half-an-hour when I get off, I will pay Rs. 50 less to this cabbie.” She told me that she will get Complaints to call me and disconnected.

The Indica driver had a lot of advice to give me. He even told me to call the earlier cab driver. I was clear that I had hired a cab from Friends Cabs and not picked one off the road. I was only going to talk to the company.

I am sure you guessed right that no one bothered to call me. I picked Lakshmi from her office on my way home and we got off at the Chinmaya Nagar Market. The meter showed Rs. 250 and true to my word, I paid the cabbie Rs. 200 and got off. He was so angry and he started shouting. I told him that I was ready to sign on the copy of the bill and say that I had paid Rs. 50 less in protest. I thought that was very fair and will make sure that he will not land in trouble. There was no way that I was going to part with Rs. 50. I refused to be cheated. Lakshmi was in full support.

We left and went into a restaurant to have a snack. That’s when the calls started coming - from Friends Cabs and from the Indica driver. Each of them must have called me half-a-dozen times. While the interruptions were irritating, a morbid side of me was enjoying them. When I had called, no one had bothered, but when I refused to pay up, they were calling me again and again. They even advised me to go to their head office at Mohappair which would have probably cost me another Rs. 250.

To continue with my story, Lakshmi and I went around the market purchasing a number of things and went down Natesan Nagar 3rd Main Road to reach our parents’ house. Lo and behold! The cabbie of the Indica was standing right in the middle of the street awaiting us. He walked along harassing us, shouting, threatening and cajoling us in turn to pay up the money. He insisted that he would be in trouble when we repeatedly told him that I didn’t mind signing on the bill mentioning the amount paid, but he was adamant. I told him that we could go to the police and he immediately started moving fast towards the police station outside Natesan Park.

The police station outside the park where we sought help

Lakshmi and I were a bit worried as our parents are quite old and stay by themselves directly across the Park. We did not want the cabbie to find the house to have him harassing them. We walked with him to the police station and waited patiently while he complained to the three Police Inspectors standing outside, obviously preparing to leave as they were not wearing their uniforms. Once he was done, I spoke my side. I explained how I was from outside Chennai and what had happened since the minute I had got into the Tavera in the afternoon.

I also mentioned that I had no intention of paying up the Rs. 50 and I did not want to be cheated. The policemen agreed with me completely and tried to persuade the cabbie to agree. But he went on arguing. I said that I was keen to meet the police mainly to ensure that my parents were not harassed after I left town after a couple of days. The policemen said, “Not to worry Ma’m, we are right here. No one will dare harass your parents. It is our job to protect them.” I felt quite relieved and happy and my faith was restored in the police force. God bless them!

The cabbie called up his office yet again and the police officer spoke to them and told them to get off the case and said that it was only fair that I refused to pay up the extra cash that I had been cheated out off earlier. Not having a choice, the cabbie left to do his work. The sad thing was that he probably missed another fare that could have earned him some more money. But then, that’s the mentality of most of the people driving transport around Chennai - very short-term thinking.

Lakshmi and I left for home after thanking the policemen and felt very satisfied with our mission – OCCUPY NATESAN PARK.

Picture Courtesy: Lakshmi Ranganathan (those of Natesan Park). Thank you Lak! For the pictures and your support in the Occupy venture :D

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