I was lucky to get a ‘kaali peeli’ taxi from the international airport departure terminal yesterday night. I had to literally jump in as taxis were not allowed to pick up passenger in front of the terminal. I was happy as I saved the walk as well as the wait to get an Uber / Ola.
When you imagine a ‘kaali peeli’ taxi, the image of the driver that pops up in your mind is that of an aged driver with a long white beard. I was using the KPT ( kaali peeli taxi) after a long time or rather I cannot instantly recollect when I had hired one in the near past. So I was happy to see the driver with similar features.
The pressure to get inside the KPT before airport authority guy stops him made me jump into the co-passenger seat rather than the rear seat. This quickly helped me to get into a conversation with the Driver ‘Chacha’.
Driver Chacha was quick to comment ‘aaj hum dono ki kismat acha hai beta, mujhe airport se savaari mil gaya air tumhaara time bach gaya’. I responded with a wide smile and a big nod of head. But I felt that he was expecting a better reply from me. So I ended up saying ‘sahi bola aapne , aap mujhe nahi pick karte toh shaayad 10-15 minute mera kharaab ho jaata’. Bingo I had given him the reply as per his wish and now it was his turn to respond with a wide smile and a big nod of head.
I asked him if he owned the taxi. ‘Mere seth ke paas 104 gaadi hai aur ye gaadi sirf mein chalaa tha hoon, din ka 400 rs. detha hoon’ was his instant reply.
I knew that it will take at least 40 minutes to reach my destination , so I continued the conversation. There were two reasons:- 1. I was curious to know about his driving experience as he was easily and patiently negotiating the the potholes in heavy rain 2. I didn’t want him to doze off while driving.
I asked Driver Chacha the brands of cars he had driven till now. The list included Fiat Padmini, Ambassador – poora darwaaza khulne wala and couple of the latest which had come up in the last 10-15 years.
Nawab Chacha (as he introduced himself) came to Mumbai all the way from ‘Illahabad’ in 1983. He has been driving taxi for the last 34 years in Mumbai. As per Nawab Chacha in 1983 meter charge was 6 Rs for a trip and petrol price was 5 Rs per litre. It took me a while to digest these numbers. I ended up asking again – ‘just 5 Rs’ ? . The “Yes” came up with a thumping authority. He continued saying that those days the number of trips were less but each driver had a set of regular customers. He mentioned that there used to a special bonding with the customers of that era. Customer will book the cab the previous day by giving him the building number and directions. For a 4 am trip it was the responsibility of the driver to reach before time and wake up the customer in case he is still sleeping. Once the customer comes back after his trip or business meeting where things went off well then the driver used to get a special tip in addition to the taxi fare. Value of 100 Rs was on a very high side during that time. He said “Barkhath hoti thi woh zamaane mein 100Rs ka lekin aaj kal 50k – 1 lakh ka koi keemat hi nahi hai”. I was telling myself that how times have changed and valuations have changed drastically. Since he was from ‘Illahabad’ the home town of Amitabh Bachchan I did ask him ‘aap bhi Amitabh Bachchan ke jagah se ho?’. “Woh toh civil lane mein rahthe the..Ganga ke paas” as though he knows Big B very well. But as he was from ‘Illahabad’ he definitely can say this with pride.
I was 15 minutes away from my destination by now and I asked him the obvious question. What is his take on Ola/Uber? His reply was very interesting. As per him everyone can co-exist in Mumbai. In a city like Mumbai everyone will get enough trips to meet ends. Only issue he had was that many of these taxi aggregator drivers don’t know how to drive a car and they are learning it on the job. He also didn’t like when one of the taxi aggregator tried to convince him to fit their meter – “Bhagaa diya unko mein ne” he said.
Just before we ended the trip he gave me a tip that there is no point over speeding your car. Hardly you will save 5-7 minutes in Mumbai. Everyone should enjoy their ride and drive safe. This coming from someone who had the experience of driving 34 years in Mumbai was a good point.