Thursday, January 27, 2011

Taxi wale Uncle


Landing at Shivaji Chatrapati airport, in Mumbai at 11 at night is no big deal but braving the choked traffic is. Anticipating this, my office had kindly arranged for a pick up from one of the cabbie agencies. As soon as I alighted I saw a dhabe jaise pape ji waiving a placard with my name on it as if it was a railway station flag. Oh well I sighed, flag or no flag, a hassle free ride I was assured by passing the usual khit pit of Mumbai Auto rikshaw wallas. The roly poly sardarji, smiled his best ‘beneath the moustache smile’, took my hand and gave it a good shake, “Oy welcome ji, welcome to tera mera sab ka Mumbai”  Shiv Sena be dammed I nodded. As soon as I was seated, I told him sardarji I don’t want any songs, “aap gana shana mat chalana”. Loji gana kisse sunna hai” he replied. I thankfully dug deeper into the small comforts a Mumbai taxi could afford, no Benz this but what the heck I wasn’t driving, that’s all that matters.

Having gauged that I was settled Sardar ji boomed, “Myself Surjit ji and yourself?”, “Dekho ji I have one principle, whoever rides my taxi has to talk with me, ye sare sare din taxi chalana badi boring si kamm hai, so maine decide karliya ki I shall talk to people and entertain myself, ab aap batao” Being from the land of reticent Kolkata and belonging to the species that does not talk unless required my curiosity was piqued. After all what could a taxi driver talk of? I smiled to myself as I was reminded of a Kolkata auto driver, whom I had asked why he had ignored a traffic light, he had replied to me in typical tongue in cheek Kolkata lingo “because they are meant to be jumped!”

Sardarji, broke my reverie as he quipped, “So tussi kahan se ho?” “Calcutta” came the monosyllabic reply. “Arre aap Bangal se ho, bhai wah tab to bada maza ayega baat karne mein” My ever sharp Bengali ego at hand raised the ever ready, “kyun?” “Arre Bengalis like talking a lot and unka political sense bada zabardast hai” All fine except for the fact that he had chosen to descend on a totally non-political Bengali species who had as little interest in Marxism as she did in Mamata Banerjee. Suddenly Sardarji became serious and asked me, “aap ne dekha Singur mein kya haungama hua?” This time I woke up fully from my self imposed slumber, a Taxi driver and conversing on Singur, now that was interesting. I asked him “aap ko kaise pata, do you follow Bengal politics?” “Madame ji I follow world politics, mujhe sab janna acha lagta hai and I think what is happening in Singur is absolutely horrible!”

Over the span of 1 and half hours that it took me to travel to Colaba, I listened in amazement and participated with gusto in the discussion that transcended from Jyoti Basu to Mamta Banerjee to CPM cadres, union issues and jai Maharashtra. As I warmed up to lambasting Mamta Banerjee and her brigade of Bandhs, he advised me wisely..”dheeraj puttar dheeraj, sab changa hoga waqt waqt ki baat hai” It was an eye opening experience to say the least. Mumbai rocks..i mumbled, it truly is the place to be! I could not help but ask him in new found tones of respect, “Sardarji, aap ko kaise malum hai ye sab?” Ignoring my typical Indian mentality of the well dressed know everything, the now rechristened ‘Taxi wale Uncle’ gave me a smile and said “Sare din gaddi chalata hun beech beech mein batein bhi kar leta hun, aise bore nahin hota”. When I reached, he smartly gave me a print out of a bill and wished me good night. Boy O boy! We sure have arrived 


Callousness and sheer laziness led me to forget the number of this one man taxi marvel, but every time I am in Mumbai, my eyes involuntarily search for Taxi Wale Uncle. Have taken many more flights and many more taxis since then, but never been as entertained or felt as good conversing with the man on the road. This one’s for you Sardar ji!
© 2011 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury

7 comments:

Shrinidhi Hande said...

interesting read.. my first time here

Maitreyee Bhattacharjee chowdhury said...

Thanks Shrinidhi, am glad you liked it. Hope to see you back.

Purba said...

Even I prefer my ride in silence. And all of them have such an appalling "Kumar Sanu fixated" selection of music.

Must have been a pleasant change to come across a well informed taxi driver :)

IRFANUDDIN said...

nice write up..... ur uncle seems to be like sholay ki Basanti..... "dekho ji mujhe zyada bolne ki aadat to hai nahi, lekin...." ...:D
BTW sometimes we did find someone who is not just like we suppose he/she should be.....
”Bapu and violence”

Maitreyee Bhattacharjee chowdhury said...

Thanks everyone :)

ambiguousm said...

this was really an interesting read. and each one of us has surely met a riksha wala, auto wala or a taxi wala bhaiyya who left us stumped with their knowledge, or command on language , or simply their interesting take on life. such people remain etched in our memory forever for breaking out of the 'imposed image'.

KalpanaS said...

entertaining - aptly conveys the joys and perils of of being a 'cab captive'!