Pity Party on New Year's Eve for All On-call Drivers
By Shyam Balasubramanian | Published: 01st January 2014 07:38 AM |
At the stroke of the midnight hour, when Chennai parties, a band of men shall stay awake to opportunity and profits. A moment that comes each year, when it snuffs itself out for a new one, the New Year is a busy time for car services and drivers, even as revelry holds sway across urban spaces.
New Year is among the busiest business days for Chennai's call taxi and call driver industries. With other holidays like Pongal, Deepavali and Christmas, it becomes increasingly more difficult to get a taxi on these days. Call taxi services are jammed with requests and are often left with waiting times of up to four hours.
"Our services run a 100 per cent booking after about 9 pm. The situation eases up only after 3 am. Our entire fleet is usually out at work,” says D Venkatesh, chief operating officer of Bharathi Call Taxi. “A majority of the bookings are packages. On all other days, we have a large number of meter bookings. But that doesn’t work out on the busy days. Customers choose to keep it on packages and hold the taxi for five hours or six hours based on their need. They do so because they know it will become very difficult to get a taxi otherwise,” he added.
A majority of the demand for the cabs is from hotels and night clubs, with other major destinations being temples and churches.
It is also one of the few days when drivers do not take leave, as it is good opportunity for them to cash in on the New Year demand. “Usually, when we are on night duty, we get one or maybe two savaris (fares) per night. But on New Year, we barely get time to breathe or to stop for a tea,” says Rajan, a driver with Fast Track. “A large number of our customers tend to be drunk, and can get very irritated or rude if we are a few minutes late,” he adds.
Another major issue for drivers, says Rajan, is the fact that to meet the crushing demand, call taxi companies book pick-ups back to back for the drivers. “Usually, we report to the office after we have dropped off a customer. It is only then that we get our instructions on where to go next. But on busy days, the company just books us back to back. So, there is usually a problem when a customer takes a detour or stops to buy some food. We then get screamed at by the customer for hurrying them, and we get screamed at by the next customer for the delay. It is a difficult night indeed,” complains Rajan, who has been a call taxi driver for close to 10 years.
“For me, I get to drive so much on such nights that I can even afford to take a couple of days off and enjoy myself with family without the rush of the festival. Both my family and I have gotten used to that,” he adds.