Readers Write: Delhi Man In A Mumbai Taxi

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Taxi Driver in Mumbai
Taxi Driver in Mumbai
Taxi Driver in Mumbai

If you read our earlier Readers Write post, Delhi Man At The Mumbai Marathon, you already know Gajendra Upadyay who is Delhi based but frequents Mumbai for work often. We loved the stories he has to share about the city. Here is his account his myriad interactions with Mumbai taxi drivers and their view of the city! Send in your stories for Readers Write at [email protected].

Mumbai taxi drivers are unique. A lot of them are still courteous. I am sure there will be some strong disagreements on this. However, they are definitely less aggressive than the ones you find in Delhi.

In my assorted conversations with taxi drivers I have found that taxi drivers from Mumbai have a whole philosophy worked out around their daily routine. They draw inspiration and arrive at life changing conclusions while on the drive. For example, it was a surprise for me to discover that the breezy Bandra-Worli Sea Link drive can evoke some serious emotions in taxi drivers. Very few in the city would claim to have a better perspective of the Sea Link than them. They ferry passengers from and to every nook and cranny of the city and most would be on the Sea Link many times in a single day.

The Political Victim
“Congress ko vote dene ka ab kabhi sawaal hi nahi hota,” a taxi driver declared to me, just as I stuck my nose out to breathe in some sea one early morning drive from the Airport. This was out of the blue and not being a big fan of the “dynasty” myself, it was nice to hear. But his reasons were more practical than mine: he placed the blame for the aborted Sea Link squarely on the Congress. Here was a magnificent opportunity to provide Mumbai with a clean, 15 minute drive from Bandra to Nariman Point. But that was not to be. The link was hurriedly terminated at Worli, instead of going all the way to Nariman Point (or even Haji Ali would have been better). This was pure, dirty politics. “Congress ko hamare bare mein koi fikr nahi hai”, he seemed sad as he pointed to the ‘adhura;’ work at the end of the Link to prove his point.

The Linguist
Then I came across one taxi driver who was a linguist and a philosopher. “Sir I speak with my passengers in the language of their choice,” he declared minutes after I boarded his neatly upholstered Santro. “Hindi, Marathi, English, Gujarati , Bhojpuri my job is to make the passenger feel comfortable and at home.” “If all else fails, I can speak to them in Sanskrit,” he said. After all, Sanskrit is known to be the mother of Indian languages and it would be a shame if he as a Brahmin was not able to speak in Sanskrit, wouldn’t it? I nodded. But did he get passengers who spoke in Sanskrit? “That’s the shame, aaj kal, aisa koi nahi milta,” he regretted.

The Mumbai Loyalist
A recent encounter with another taxi driver who had been following the brutal and ugly Delhi rape case carefully, gave me some new perspectives on Mumbai city and its sense of safety. As soon as I replied with a “Delhi” to his “kahan se aaye hain”, he unleashed a long list of laments about law and order in the North and particularly in Delhi. He himself hailed from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan where his son had just completed his 12th and was doing his 13th (in science). “How can the Police quibble about jurisdiction when a crime has happened,” he wondered referring to the Delhi case. He was obviously completely updated on the facts – of public apathy, of Police inaction – that led to the tragedy.

This would never have happened in Mumbai he said. “Women feel safe in Mumbai.” Even an off duty Havildar would not hesitate to promptly step into action if he noticed anything untoward. “Mumbai Police personnel do not shirk their responsibilities. “Salary kis liye milta hai usko? It is his job to maintain law and order.” Hopefully, the Delhi Police will draw some lessons from this anecdote and start working after duty hours.

The Athlete
My account about Mumbai taxi drivers would remain adhura without sharing this interesting exchange with a Fiat taxi driver – this was on the morning immediately after the Mumbai Marathon. As I hopped into his taxi (see my earlier post on why I ran the Marathon), he asked me if I had “bhagoed” in this “daud”. I told him I had. He then sighed a deep sigh: “Kya batayein bhai saab, it was my luck that I got into this line (of taxi driving).” He was an athlete in his college days. “Aaj kal toh bhaagne mein bhi bahut paisa hai.” It was not so in his days, 27 years ago. Fate had intervened and he became a taxi driver. “Lekin, Yeh mera daava hai…..aaj bhi koi mujhe 1500 meters waale race mein nahi hara sakta. Main apne college ka champion tha.”

This thought excited him as he pressed the accelerator to the floor and raced down Mohammad Ali Road. I was a bit worried, because it was more than 1500 meters to the airport. “But today is Sunday saab and it is khaali,” he reassured me.

Photo by Uday Tadphale

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