An interesting experience with Uber last evening in Udaipur, where we are attending a dear friend’s wedding. Do read it in the context of this piece that underscores the concerns of operators in small cities across India and reminds us that the ‘bharosa’ that comes in with informal practices is often what makes systems tick in our country.
So last night we call an Uber to our hotel. As we get comfy and name our destination, the driver’s face falls. The destination is out of his range of coverage, he informs us. No amount of cajoling, offering extra money, nothing will make him go there. But he offers to drop us to the nearest intersection from where we request our friend to send us a car.
The intersection is rather deserted, but lit, and our driver is genuinely concerned about our comfort and safety. He is also visibly distressed about having to do this, but a recent Uber joinee and clearly not comfortable with taking risks as yet. Most of all, he is very relieved that we are not making a fuss. “Uber ke customers samajhte hain (Uber customers understand),” he tells us, in defense of his decision to drive Uber instead of Ola, the more popular app-based cab operator in these parts. Ola would probably have taken us to our destination, he adds, laughing!
Clearly, provisions for flexibility are a double edged sword for tech-enabled services. What is a higher priority- customer service or control over drivers who are expected to game the system? In a country where gaming the system is the system, it is quite a hilarious situation!
After we crossed over into Rajasthan, we found ourselves in Dungarpur District. This was the prettiest terrain I’ve seen in a while. Hilly, with lush green pockets of farmland, forest areas interspersed with villages, rocky hill faces, the occasional fort and the highway snaking through it…the journey lulled me into sleep here.
I was jolted awake by a most bizarre set of voices. Two Google Auntys were talking at once! One was panicking, the other was issuing instructions more calmly. Nupur didn’t know which Google Aunty she was supposed to listen to and Rachna was saying “Listen to me, listen to me!”. What’s more, our car had braked to a halt at a rather strange turn off the highway. A bit alarmed, it took me a few minutes to figure out that the girls had decided to stop at Shikar Badi, Udaipur for an early lunch. So while Google Aunty 2 was taking us to Shikar Badi, Aunty 1 was still taking us to Ajmer, our next night halt destination! In this truly hilarious state, collapsing in giggles, we criss-crossed some zillion tiny lanes to finally find ourselves at this quaint little hotel, part of the HRH Group run by the Maharana of Mewar.
Shikar Badi had nostalgia value for two of us, Rachna and me. While Rachna had worked on an event at this location (she used to work for a large events company), I had lived here while working on an architectural heritage assignment for the Mewar Group way back in 1999! It hadn’t changed much, the hotel. We were happy to lounge around the pool while the courteous staff got us tea and snacks.
We, on the other hand (and you know by know that food has been a big part of this experience!), had Laal Maas on our minds at 11:30am! It was clearly hard for us to mask the disappointment when the staff informed us that lunch is served only at 12:30pm and it was absolutely darling of them to get the dishes we wanted prepared earlier! As it happened, satiated with the most amazing meal of laal maas, gate ki sabzi and tandoor rotis, we set off for the last leg for the day before one pm…