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A few days back I call an Uber for my morning trip to a meeting. I was told Uber beats Ola at safety. You can send your trip status to a person of your choice and the drivers are certainly better. So that morning I decide to give Uber a chance. My destination happens to be on the city fringe and I clearly mention that when I make the booking. I receive an instant confirmation and the driver arrives on time. As soon as the ride begins, the driver informs me that the destination is outside his 'RANGE'. I don't quite understand and think it has something to do with GPS and fare calculation(Silly Me !!). I ask him for clarification. He drives some more and brings up the topic again as soon as we were about to leave the city. This time I ask him to explain in Black & White.He breaks his silence and explains drivers have their territories marked like a Lakshman Rekha or something. And my destination obviously falls outside of it. Now I am getting a little restless. I am well in time for an important meeting and this Kahani Mein Twist isn't such a pleasant surprise. It starts to set my pulse racing. I ask him to explain why he agreed to the ride in the first place to which 'CONFUSION' comes as a quick reply. Next, I ask him if he is willing to reach me where I am headed. Now my pent up anger erupts. He has the audacity to tell me he will go only as far as his territory marking. Furious, thinking about how I am going to make it to the end and cursing myself for booking an Uber, I ask him to stop and bill me till that point. Now he tries telling me he would drop me to which I ask for clarification WHERE? Where was he planning to drop me? In the middle of nowhere? At least, I had a chance of finding another vehicle right now. Beyond this point, I might be lucky if I found even a bullock cart, leave along autos and taxis. So I pay and alight; my heart pounding out of my chest and threatening him I will log a complaint.
The next second is Epic; he loses his calm, throws his phone and storms out of his car hurling insults at UBER. Incidently, Indian insults are never complete without the Ma and Behen. Yes, what an extraordinary performance. I am palpitating, in the middle of a street graced with occasional cars passing by but not a single person afoot. I start getting stares from fellow drivers who drive away brimming with curiosity and apprehension, checking my clothes out, but not bothered to stop and check if all is well. I quickly move away from the cab planning what to do next. I still see the driver all stressed and outside his car and feel overwhelmed by a series of thoughts, yes the absolute nasty ones that lash my thinking machine. I turn a few times to make sure he isn't coming back at me to hit and run or slap or rip off my clothes. My mind is numbed and incapable of any response, flight , fight... it is only filled with fright. To make it more filmy, my Knight in Shinning Armour isn't in town to save his damsel in distress. I feel terribly lonely and incapable of any sanity for those few minutes. So I collect myself and park myself under a tree in the hope of finding another cab. The incident is bad enough to lead me back home, but I choose to stay put. I ask a friend to help who is able to drop me back home, but not where I am originally headed. However, the meeting is important and I choose to battle it out between the scared little girl and the professional commitment. I weigh the prospect of asking for a lift(the closest I can get to the idea is the memory of Pooja Bhatt lifting up her skirt in Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahi) and drop it instantaneously. All those driving past look like they come from regular backgrounds heading to work, mostly geeky(that explains why they choose to look through a lone creature standing in the middle of a barren road. Now it even starts to rain). Nevertheless, I find an Auto Richshaw. The driver scans me from head to toe and makes a quick judgement he is in luck. He demands thrice the amount confident I am in no position to negotiate and viola he wins hands down. I now make a fresh start towards my meeting. On the way, the driver invites a friend who claims he knows where I wish to go and the duo try to make an extra few pounds by making it to the wrong turn. That's when I intervene and let them know Iead the way. Then on, the ride is smooth. I make it to my destination and still in time. I pay way more than I promised. I am not in a mood for any more arguments. So I quickly pay and leave, lest it spoils my day. The rest of the day turns out pretty phenomenal and I do not face any significant problems. My co-sister sends her driver over to ferry me back home. By evening, I am back to my usual self but the morning doesn't seem to leave me. I play the scenes over and over again in my mind and think, each time we experience something so UBER, we lose our cool. We react at the spur of the moment. Right or not doesn't matter. The driver may have planned to make a quick buck by doing me a favour of going the extra mile. But sadly, his plan failed. He may have had other motives in mind, who knows? As a passenger, a woman passenger that too, my only feeling is 'I am not safe. No matter what cab I call. I am only safe if I resort to driving myself. Fellow drivers will have to bear the brunt of my sloth-like speed, traffic discipline and safety first principle. At least, I won't have to lose my cool. Its the other drivers on road that will make a mention of my Ma Behen giving me Chalana nahi aata to chalane ka kayko' looks while overtaking from all sides. But so what, I at least know there is a way out.
It was not so Uber after all. It makes me think how these companies hire drivers. Yes there is a complaint form on the app. What happens after that is not known. These Angry Birds are all out in the open. We come across them all the time. They belong to the clan of my way or highway. Is there anything we can do to improvise the overall experience? Can these drivers be worked upon in terms of basic civic sense.. since ethics and safety seem to be on Mars for now. And yes does putting this incident online or filing a complaint against such irate drivers expose me to the risk of revenge? He has my handphone number and my address you see. Unfortunately, we live in a country where the law abiding are scared while the law breakers go scot-free. A woman may decide not to complain for the fear of facing personal attacks instead of receiving justice. How do we turn this situation around?? Any thoughts??