The convenience of booking a cab-ride is as easy as it can get for most living in the city. But what cannot be overlooked is the fact that the popular cab-booking services are just that – services. They spend on improving their user-interface from time to time. But how often do they take part in fixing their customer support and conducting thorough checks on their drivers?
Comedienne and actor Mallika Dua recounts her horrific experience with an Uber driver on Sunday.
“When I called for the car, there was no issue. I got into the cab. Like we generally enter a cab and ask for the driver to increase the cooling, I did it too. The minute I got in, I said: Bhaiyyaji, AC badha do (increase the cooling). His reaction wasn’t appropriate. I again repeated to turn up the cooling,” she recounts.
The trip started from Dua’s house.
“He pretended to put the knob up; he didn’t actually do it. In 10 minutes, I was feeling very hot, I even moved away from the sunny side of the car. I again told him bhaiya AC badha dijiye, to which he sharply reacted saying that that was the maximum cooling available. He said, tum Uber mein jake baat karo (You report it to Uber). I asked him, Kyu nahi badh sakta (Why not?). That is when he stopped the car. That was the trigger for him. There was nothing else that happened. Once he ended the trip, I also yelled. What I feel is, if there was someone well-built in my place, this wouldn’t have happened. You always see who you’re up against and that’s how you react."
The driver, Chetan, stopped the car in the middle of the road and told Dua to get out of the car.
"He was like, tum niklo gaadi se. I said, ye kya batameezi hai, ye kya bakwas hai (You are being rude. What nonsense is this)? I told him, I’m not leaving the car till the time I speak to Uber. I continued sitting in the car, the AC was off," Dua says.
As she tried to lodge a complain from the app and also book another cab, the driver got two phone calls in Marathi. "While I was on the phone, he started driving. I reacted saying bhaiyya, what are you doing? I am still in the car. He said that he has another customer to pick and that I should leave," she says.
Dua told him to drop her where the driver had stopped the car before.
"But he kept telling me that I should leave the car. I told him to lower his volume and yelled back for being rude. I said, tujhe mai police ke pas le jaungi (I will take you to the police). That is when I started warning him about police repeatedly. But he was unperturbed by that. He was like, nikal jao gaadi se (Get out of the car)."
Dua, who had taken the ride to visit her brother-in-law, believes that it was the driver's lack of faith in the police system that explained his behaviour.
"Despite so many cases like of sexual harassment getting reported against them (drivers), people still go back. Helplessness hai logo ki. This incident is also an example, because I still went for an Uber after the horror, because I had no other choice."
The famous comic artist wonders what if she wasn't as lucky to have other alternatives. "It is easy for me to say that I can get my own car and driver, because I am earning well in the city. I thought I could use public transport because it’s convenient, but it’s not even that anymore. When I got out of the car, he started hurling abuses in Marathi," she says.
The driver put pressure on Dua to leave because there was another customer who kept calling him. "He told that person that he was on the way." When Dua had told the driver to increase the cooling, he revolted saying that he couldn’t stand cold temperatures. Invoking the cab booking company's tagline, the driver told Dua, "Tum log ko ad mein Uber dikhata hai ki isse apni gaadi samjho (Uber might tell you to think of your ride as your own car), but it’s not like that," she says.
Dua recalls her state after the entire encounter. "When I took an Uber after that, I was howling. The second driver was like, what happened. He said, 'madam, I apologise on behalf of all others. Why are you so upset because of one maniac?' He proceeded to tell me that there were certain frustrations that drivers held against Uber. He guessed that the rude driver taking out his frustration on customers. The other cabbie was very nice."
Dua's call to take to social media helped attain get some sense of relief. "Before the victim-shaming started (on social media), there were so many responses of very similar things happening. This goes to show that this is not new. In my case, what makes it unusual is that the trigger was so ridiculous. AC badhane se kisika dimag agar sanak sakta (Someone can lose their calm on something like raises down the temperature). He was legit crazy. Ofcourse, I yelled at him and would yell again."
Does anyone have a contact in Uber ?
— Mallika Dua (@MallikaDua) October 8, 2017
Dua wonders further how would it have turned out had the customer been someone unlike her. "What if there was someone who wouldn’t yell at him. He’d get away with it, right? By the time the second cabbie dropped me, I had put up a post. So Uber reached out to me. They told me they had barred this particular driver and asked if I wanted to take legal recourse. They promised it on a recorded call. The problem in all of this is that, I am the one who is sh*t scared. My own mother is telling me, agle bar koi aise bole toh utar jana chup chap (Get off the vehicle the next time something similar happens). I am scared because though he may not want to do anything, the piece of news is so big now, one of his people might. Something or the other might happen."
The fact that the pick location was from Dua's residential area had made her more paranoid. “A man who has been barred has nothing to lose. I kept giving him threats of taking him to the police," she says, adding that she fears an attack.
There was no way Dua's celebrity status could come to her immediate rescue. "I can’t proceed to him to explain to him that search me on Instagram or Youtube. This has got attention, but I wouldn’t even let this issue go otherwise. My sister has told me to let it go for my peace, but I cannot forget what happened. I realised in ten minutes of the ride that he was crazy."
Dua's past experiences with Uber never made her think it would lead to this. "With Uber, I have had a suspected drunk driver. It’s not something I made a big deal about, since it was speculation. Luckily, it happened in Bombay in the night."
Although Dua is no more trapped in the situation, she fears what it would've turned out like had the incident not taken place in broad daylight. "This happened off Veera Desai, which is a garbage dumping area. The driver was just unafraid. He asked me to get out after stopping the car. The only way they take their frustration is by claiming ownership over their vehicle. There wasn’t even a minute pause. After he realised I am not taking a 'no' for an answer, is when he ended the ride. I told him AC is set at level 2, and that he could take it to 4. He straightaway told me to report to Uber," she says.
Dua is of the opinion that there is a larger issue within the organization that is not being addressed. "He had a lot of anger towards Uber. They (Uber) have repeatedly called me and assured that he has been barred. I don’t know how much that fixes, how can it can prevent from similar things happening. He had a 4.56 rating, which is below the average rating," she says.
But after resorting to social media, Dua could not escape negative criticism. "People are like, even I would’ve shouted, but the point is it all this happened within three minutes. The incident took around 3 pm on Sunday. Barring is fine but I still don’t feel safe," she says.
Dua found herself completely lost when she tried to register her complaint on the app. 'Uber called me to say that there is an SOS button. In hindsight, I should have just used that," she says, adding that she reported the driver's lack of professionalism using the other way to report on the app.
Acknowledging that her status did have a role to play in the fast redressal of grievance, Dua says, "My issue was resolved because of a silly blue tick. But the main takeaway is, how is it possible that the company has no customer care number? Also there are varying degrees of issues. There really needs to be a call-up option. The level of apathy is not acceptable in this case."
Dua registered the problem in the app, and also took to social media. However, she still doesn't feel assured. "I don’t know yet whether I’ll file an FIR. I do feel unsafe. If we trust the company to resolve, there's no need for an FIR. There is an understanding that nothing will happen. I feel very unsafe. I hope Uber sets an example."
But Dua hasn't given up on Uber yet. Pointing that she gave the company a second chance within the next five minutes of the incident, she says,"It’s not just Uber. I will still call cab services. We can't be dejected by this. Boycotting is not the solution."
However, the incident has had an effect on Dua's future choices. "I could get a car right now. I might even learn to drive, but only when I get back to Delhi. Maybe I will learn how to drive scooty and navigate my way through the traffic."
Updated Date: Oct 09, 2017 14:19 PM