METER DOWN: A RIDE WITH THE CABBIES

The local trains sped past me a few years back. My lazy procrastinating ass met the comforting backseat of a cab. From the day we met, it was love at first sight. Within my love stories, there are many small stories – those of the cabbies. From short journeys to long, I’ve explored this fascinating kind of human beings. Taking into account personal experiences and many shared by friends; I’m throwing light on the different kind of taxi drivers that drive Mumbai. Buckle up for this joy ride.

He’s a Complain Boy

These are the most common found species in Mumbai. Their favourite topic – Pothole Politics. At every bump, my ears pain. They yap. And yap. And yap. The blame is always shot at ruling political party for bringing this upon them. I, too, blame them for bringing this cabbie’s sorry speech to my innocent ears. And when it rains, they pour. The rains refuse to stop, and so do their complains. If you’ve never been into politics, let me tell you, there is no escape. Every pothole and every screeching whine from him would make you hate it as much as the next person.

Picchur abhi pheeki hai mere dost

Their story is much more interesting than our current Bollywood masala capers. And these cabbies too echo the same sentiment – “Story kahan hai boss”. This single-screen whistling and bustling, showcasing joie de vivre, all up for entertainment crowd, have a simple problem – boredom. “Do chaar fighting scenes, gaane aur phoreign location se picchur nahi banti, kuch kahani nahin kuch nahi. Kabhi London mein, kabhi Bambai mein, hero log duniya ghoomte hain, aur unke saath kahaani bhi. Kya phadtoos picchur banaate hain aaj kal”. While your favourite critiques can give you brilliant reviews, trust me, a review from a cabbie is worth more than 5 stars.

Tu shaana toh mein ded shaana

If you think you’re smart, wait till you meet this kind. For every question you ask, he will have two answers, normal route and short cut. By-lanes within by-lanes, smelly corners, playing kids, he takes you through a ride, you’ve never seen before. Just when you start feeling like Indiana Jones, you soon realize that you’re back on the same road, albeit 10 minutes late. If you try to talk your way out it, chances are, just like his response, you’d be caught in traffic. As every question is met with the redundant word of traffic, the meter quietly starts crawling on your wallet, until you feel a pinch. When you encounter such cabbies, take them head on. File a complaint or just pay the normal fare and walk away. After all, every shaana needs a ded shaana.

0 to 80 kmph in 6 seconds

Mumbai has its own share of Schumachers, Vettels and the likes. They truly believe their Fiat Padmini or Santro is no less than a Batmobile, Aston Martin or a Ferrari. This lot of cabbies was rejected when they auditioned for Fast & Furious. They were also rejected as side villains of side villains in sidey movies. If you still haven’t followed, they love speed, high collars, and chewing gutkha. As soon as you close the door, pray to your Gods, because he is in no mood to listen to you. He does not even listen to the red signal sometimes. His honks turn everyone around him deaf, including you. And his meter is hell-bent in ripping your wallet apart. By the end of the journey, he is still Batman; unfortunately you would’ve become the Joker.

The RTO Topper

He took the test. And passed it with flying colours. And as his close ones congratulated him, he took an oath. “I will never break any signal, even if it’s an emergency or way past midnight. I pledge that my car speed will be around my age, never crossing 40 kmph. I will carry a newspaper to don a more serious getup. ” When Mr. Right is your cabbie, you can meditate. Especially at the speed-breaker, where time stands still, quite literally in this case. You breathe in. Pause. And breathe out. And by now you’d be on the other side of the speed-breaker. He is the face of RTO, and yes, he also tenders exact change.

The Dark Knight

Every night, he gets out of his cave and roams around the streets of Mumbai, saving the city girls from their drunken state and the Roadside Romeos. The vultures are on the prowl in their beasty cars, trying to take her in. But he assures her, he is there and not to pay heed to the hooligans. He drops her home and waits to see her walk in through the gate. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A dark knight.

Peeping Tom

His eyes pop up. His smile turns sly. And those lusty eyes rove in the rear view mirror in the centre of the cab, taking pleasure in the milder version of Kama Sutra being practiced at his backseat. His voyeuristic gaze never leaves the mirror and his memory never forgets. Sometimes a head shake, sometimes a wicked smile, but always intrigued. To your love story, he is the red-blooded witness.

Captain Bored

He is the king of mood swings. And there’s not much you can do about it. You will find him staring at open skies or ogling at pretty legs. Your destination is the least of his concerns. He and his cab have one thing in common, no gas. Beware of this specimen. Because often mid-journey boredom hits him. And then he will offer to drop you at the nearest auto or cab stand. He is so bored that you’d never want to get on board.

While our beloved cabbies often rant nonsensical things, every once in a blue moon, they’ll dish out a gem that’ll touch your soul, a quality very few authors possess. One masterpiece that encapsulates the emotion like no one else can. To end this piece, I would like to quote this one cabbie, and would like to give credit to a dear friend (Dharmesh Gandhi) for tweeting the same. India had just won the cricket world cup; the entire city had taken over the streets reveling the joyous celebration of the victory. As he got into the taxi, the cabbie said and I quote, “Khushi ke maare aasoon nikal rahe hain sir. Lagta hai ke desh ek aur baar azaad hua hai.”

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6 thoughts on “METER DOWN: A RIDE WITH THE CABBIES

  1. A very entertaining piece indeed, Ashu. I have been there a couple of time, so it was a good deal of fun relating to the incidences here. Well done:)

  2. The local trains. Write about those.Have had some of my most entertaining times in those. Dozing aunties, drooling uncles and uncles who peep into your phone and ask you for cricket updates. Ladies compartments are boring. The general compartments are awesome.

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