Uber Experience in Kolkata: April 13, 2022
I am in Kolkata for the last few days as part of my travel to India during March – April of 2022 staying with my friend in New Town, a planned satellite town being developed for last so many years with wise streets, modern amenities, highrises and the town being near the airport makes it a desirable place to live. Infact residents of New Town do not have to go to old town Kolkata unless visiting friends and relatives. And that’s where the issue arise. I was here about four years back when the metro connection was being built. That metro is still not completed. So to visit family or friends in other parts of old Kolkata one has to depend on app based taxi services unless someone is brave enough to take the public bass services. I was not that brave to face an overcrowded bus in the oppressive humidity for which Kolkata is well known.
So come evening yesterday I and my friend found ourselves just outside the gates of the housing society waiting for the UBER driver who was supposed to be there in a few minutes. Well, after few cancelled reservations by UBER drivers and multiple calls going unanswered we were finally graced by the visit of an UBER driver. With a sigh of relief we sat down expecting the comfort of air conditioning to dry off the drenching sweat that had bathed us by that time. Well, we expected too much. Our merciful lord, the UBER driver, gave us all the excuses under an invisible moon hidden by the smog or cloud that had been hiding the sun for last few days in Kolkata why he would not allow us the privilege of an air conditioned ride to the City of Joy except agreeing that he was contractually obligated to turn on the air conditioning. To make a long story short, we had the pleasure of listening to his running commentary of how UBER was responsible for the devious ploy of depriving us of the pleasure of having what we have paid for and how and his fellow cohorts are going to ensure that we get our dues in some not too distant future because they were hard (or was it hardly) at work to serve their customers to the best of their abilities.
So one part of the ordeal was over. We had a good time with our friend and now it was time to come back. And then the fun started. If during coming it was couple of cancelled bookings now it was one cancellation after another. For every booking there would be about ten or fifteen minutes waith time. On your cell phone phone app you see the car moving a few blocks and then a permanent stall with calls being answered by a voice message saying that the caller was not reachable. We must have waited about an hour before an UBER driver picked up the phone and the app showed a constantly moving car.
Hallelujah! So we were finally on an UBER car about to be driven back home. But oh, wait! More surprises were waiting us. As we sat down on our seats the driver shut off the engine and asked my friend for the fare agreed upon by UBER. We were surprised. My friend asked whythe driver needs the fare. It’s between him and UBER. However the driver refused to budge and ultimately my friend gave in. We were simply too tired. More surprises waiting for us. Now my lord the driver wanted to see the cellphone of my friend and he really insisted. My friend asked the driver if he didn’t believe what my friend said but the driver just was insistent. Finally my friend gave his cell phone to the driver who took one look and gave the phone back to my friend. The driver said that he cancelled the booking and we could give him the agreed fare once we reach our destination. We were shocked but what to do. Get down and start the whole process again? What guarantee was there that we would get another one and if we get one how much time we may have to wait. We agreed and finally the car started moving. What a relief! We asked the driver to put the a/c on and lo and behold! another surprise. That would be an extra fifty rupees. This time my friend lost his patience and gave the driver a most profound sarcastic tongue lashing in perfectly chaste Hindi with due emphasis on the appropriate words to drive his point home. The result was that the sullen lord graced us with some cool air from the car a/c. The rest of the journey was made in dead silence.
When we reached home my friend asked me to take a photo of the license plate which I did. The driver was visibly upset and asked why we took a photo of the license plate. My friend responded that there was nothing further to talk and the driver would come to know the consequences soon. The look on the face of the driver as he drove away was enough to sooth some of our pains being ubered in the city of joy. Neither UBER nor it’s drivers care for the customers. They are there in this business to make money and customers conme last.