Mumbai is famous for its “black and yellow” taxis or cabs. It is equally infamous for the lazy, stubborn drivers who mostly refuse to take passengers if they want to go short distances. I have had several bad experiences with the cab drivers in Mumbai, leaving me frustrated, angered, and upset by how worse this situation seems to get with each passing day. Any hope of avoiding the ownership of my own vehicle so as to reduce my carbon footprint on the environment and save myself the expense and grief of maintaining a car in Mumbai, as well as not having to stress about finding parking in this god damn city, is all out the window. Yes, completely out the window and now I have to orient myself, again, to driving in Mumbai, because soon we will have to buy a car!
I have shouted at cab drivers, my husband has abused them real bad, I have filed a complaint with the traffic police (RTO) and have even banged the doors of these cabs (luckily, I haven’t hurt myself while doing any of these crazy things) in order to get my point across to them when they refuse me a ride. For instance, a few days ago, I wanted to get back home from Parel. I approached the cabbie and he said he wouldn’t take me because I was wanting to go in the opposite direction of where he was parked. In other words, because the idiotic cab driver did not want to drive a little ahead and make a u-turn and go in the direction I wanted to go, he directed me to cross the other side of the road and catch a cab from there. I almost wanted to smash his teeth! Yes, this city has made me aggressive and violent, sometimes to my own detriment.
OK – now to the hearty laugh. Sunday night my husband and I ended up in Bandra for dinner and drinks with another couple. We had a few of the Kingfisher Pitchers, that chilled, malty beer, on a balmy evening, enjoying the mild temperatures of November (yes, the weather is gradually changing). I highlight “gradual” because it is indeed a very slow process, I think a drop of 1/2 a degree each week, or at least it feels like that. Anyways, we get on the main road and wait for a cabbie. One passes us by on the opposite side of the road, slows down, the driver sticks his head out with the expectation that we will shout out our destination, and then he would decide and act accordingly. Of course, we did not tell him our destination, so he casually stops his cab at the end of the road, within our view, and hangs out there for a couple of minutes. My husband and I debate if we should go upto him and indulge in that same old song and dance of “we want to go here” and he says “no” and we say “what’s your problem” and he says some bullshit and we give up in search for another cab.
So, seeing that we were a couple of stubborn folks, the cabbie now makes another attempt to gain our attention without appearing like he wants it – it’s a game of cat and mouse. He now turns around and parks the cab just a few feet from us. My husband goes up to him and tells him our destination, and as expected, the driver came up with some excuse, this one being that he already has a cutomer. In a matter of seconds, my husband started abusing him in Hindi and got all fired up, but all of this excitement fell on deaf ears.
But, as they say, life has its ways of teaching us some valuable lessons. Just then, a huge police jeep pulled right behind the cab. My husband walked right up to it, while one of our friends was hesitant about us talking to the police, and his girlfriend (it’s always the women who have more guts) reminded my husband to pull out his Times of India “Press Card” (this card is taken very seriously in India, even by the police, to the point that if it gets lost, the owner of the card has to file a police report). I promptly followed my husband and we both started displaying our displeasure with the cab driver and demanding what the law enforcement agents were going to do about it.
What was interesting about this whole experience was the police’s response. It took the police about 30-45 seconds to decide if they were going to act on our complaint. Finally, one of the cops, in plain clothes, approached the taxi driver, poked his head in through the front passenger window, and said something which only he, the driver, and god will ever know. The cop then opened the back door, asked us to get in, instructed the driver to take us to our destination, and to return to Bandra. My husband and I were in a whirl!! We had no idea what just happened and we both wanted to laugh sooooo bad, because the driver was quiet all the way through and we knew the guy got a taste of his own medicine. It was really funny and all the while, we had to sit with a serious face in the cab, as if we just walked out of a mafia movie. Of course, we were shit scared for our lives, thinking that at 11 pm, this driver would take his revenge by either dropping us off in the middle of nowhere or taking us to a deserted area and hacking us to pieces. Who knows. Anything is possible in Mumbai!
In any case, we instructed the driver to drop us several feet away from our house, lest he knew where were lived and stalked us…..again, anything is possible. We got out of the car, into our flat, and burst out laughing and cracking up, delighted that for once, the cab driver was on the receving end of all this bogus. If they did their jobs and took passengers to their desired destinations, be it a long or short trip, the people of Mumbai would not have a bad taste in their mouth.
Of course, we will never know what actually prompted the police to take action: was it the Times of India press card or was it our aggressive complaints in public, where we caused a stinker? Who knows!