The gentle west wind hums/ As it blows in from the lake/ Over the fields and swaying palms/ The soul songs of the waves.
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Saturday, November 8, 2008
Mumbai taxi stories
One Sunday evening, 1957. I was entering the gate of the guest house where I stayed in Colaba. Suddenly there was a shout from behind me. Turning around, I recognized the taxi driver who had taken a friend and me to SilverSandsBeach that morning.
The man got out of the vehicle holding up a tiny but very expensive camera and I got a jolt. I had borrowed it from a friend for the outing and had left it behind in the taxi without realizing it.
It was such a great relief when the driver handed the camera over to me. He explained that he had been waiting for me for a long time and I should pay him the meter charge. That was about 40 rupees. I gave him 100 rupees.
1970. I engaged a taxi for the whole day. The vehicle was spic and span. The driver was a well groomed elderly person with a cultured voice. On the way back to the hotel at night we got to talking.
What he told me about him was so fascinating that years later I wrote a brief short story based on it titled A Tyreseller. It won a prize in the Unisun-British Council short story competition. Click on the link below to read it.
Now, the 21st century.
Five years back my wife and I reached Mumbai by train. Because of a communication muddle the vehicle for us waited at Dadar and we went on to Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus).
We took a taxi for the long haul to Ghatkopar. After about a hundred meters the car stopped and a goon looking chap got in front. The driver said the man was his brother.
After a while the non-driving brother pulled out a bottle from under the seat. The contents could have been water or colorless alcohol. They started drinking, passing the bottle from one to the other. I felt uncomfortable but kept quite. I had no mobile phone to contact anyone.
After Bandra the driver took us east, driving trough some remote areas for about two hours. Finally he dropped us off about 5kms from our destination saying the car had run out of patrol, and demanded Rs.2000. He settled for Rs.1400 which, I told him was all that we had. I managed to note down the taxi number though the goons tried to prevent me.
A passing autorickshaw driver had stopped by and was watching all these. While taking us to the address where we were staying he told us that the fare from CST would not have been more than Rs.400. He insisted that we should complain to the police.
Mumbai had changed so much!
The story had a satisfactory end, though. I contacted somebody I knew in the government. Within twenty four hours the goons were apprehended and the entire money was returned. Out of that I entrusted Rs.500 to the policemen and told them to give the taxi driver what was fair.