The Great, Big, Auto Ride!
If I thought the nightmarish experience of almost ending up in prison was behind us, I was wrong. There was more to come.
As luck would have it, the seafood restaurant was closed. It was nearing 2 in the afternoon and made no sense searching for a place to eat; best would be to have lunch back at the hotel. I noticed an ATM nearby and decided to draw some cash.
An elderly-looking auto driver strolled over to us. He was a local Tamil and claimed to know of a place that served authentic Sri Lankan food. We agreed on a fare of 350 rupees and got in to the colourful three-wheeler. I got this funny feeling that he was in the direction of our hotel, since we passed by some familiar landmarks.
This place he brought us looked a bit odd. I decided to check it out and found that it was all Chinese. Nah! I explained to the auto driver that we wanted to eat Sri Lankan food. He suddenly remembered he knew of another place. Off we went again, through lanes and bye-lanes till we reached a main road. He pointed to an eatery. This didn't look right either. The specialty here was Biryani. I didn't fly thousands of miles to stuff myself with Biryani, how much ever Sri Lankan it might be.
This was all so horribly wrong and I was going bazookas.
Then he said he knew of another place. I cut him off. "Go to the hotel," I said. He mumbled something about two, three other places he knew. I told him to shut up and drive his contraption. This guy was beginning to piss me off.
Twenty minutes later we got off at the hotel. "How much," I asked? He replied, "1300 rupees," and went into a long narration to justify the fare. Bullshit, I said and a few unmentionables in pure Tamil which didn't appease him, obviously. "You think I walk around with flowers in my ears?" In Tamil that actually sounds pretty funny.
He refused the 750 rupees I gave him. By now his auto brethren had gathered around. Ah! So the auto union was assembling. He was gung-ho, sensing victory. His decibel levels began to rise and that got my goat. I caught him by the collar and shoved him into the auto and said, "Come let's go to the Police Station and we'll settle the matter there" though I had no intention of going anywhere near the uniformed brigade ever again.
I'd called his bluff and that shook him up a bit. One of the auto chaps asked me what the commotion was all about. I explained how this guy took us for a ride and even mentioned some landmarks we passed by. He seemed to understand and told the old man that the fare he demanded was unreasonable.
By now it was pretty hot out there, my stomach was making sounds akin to a volcano on the verge of eruption and I wanted get rid of this guy fast. I took out another hundred, placed it on the auto seat and walked off.
The money blew away in the wind. The auto driver panicked and went grabbing at the flying currency. That, to me was an indication of his acceptance and I knew I'd seen the last of him. Nevertheless, I told the hotel security staff that should he create any further ruckus, call the cops. I believe the auto chap hung on for nearly two hours hoping we'd make an appearance. Thankfully, we didn't.
Eventually, he went away. I wondered if he laughed all the way to the bank.
Next: Beer, Lunch and Odel