When someone rips me off and I’m in a good mood, I just shrug it off as part of life here. If I’m tired, sometimes I know I’m getting a raw deal and ignore it because fighting takes too much energy. But sometimes I feel like I actually belong here in this crazy land. And that’s when I work, barter and talk my way into the fair price.
Like when I arrived back in Pilgrimville. I felt like I’d arrived somewhere I belong. Happily, I found an auto heading towards my house and climbed aboard. In Pilgrimville, autos (which comfortably seat six people, but usually hold eight or ten) work like buses. Pay five rupees and you can ride as far up the street as you want.
Two minutes into this journey, however, the driver stopped near a small shop and began calling to a friend inside. Another man appeared at the side of the auto. I heard the driving telling his friend from the shop that he needed someone to talk to “this foreigner in English”. I looked at the other man with a quizzical look. He said the name of the neighborhood I’d given as my destination. I nodded.
“Fifty rupees,” he said in Hindi.
I responded in Hindi, “Fifty rupees? Why?”
All eyebrows shot up and the driver who was trying to charge me 10x the fair price started laughing almost uncontrollably. The friend from the shop was waved off.
“She speaks Hindi! She speaks Hindi!” They kept repeating to one another.
I got off the auto to find one who’d charge the appropriate amount. The driver, still laughing, waved me back on the auto.
“Sit, sit,” he commanded.
“Not for fifty rupees,” I responded.
“Sit, sit,” was all he could manage through his laughter.
“She speaks Hindi,” his friend was still muttering in amazement.
“For five rupees?” I wanted to confirm.
“Yes, yes.” The driver affirmed.
And we went on for the fair price.
If you’re doing any exchange rate math… you know I got off the auto to avoid paying an extra $.75… which may seem a little ridiculous. But it was 10x what he should be charging his passengers! Sometimes, it’s just the principle of the matter!
Getting the fair price, and their stunned response when I argued for it in Hindi, made me feel just a little bit that I’m starting to belong here.