Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sweet in a salty evening

After a particularly long day at work and meetings, I ended up frantically hailing cabs at a busy junction to get to my corner of peace. Those black and yellow (called kaali-peeli in local slang) metal bundles of joy kept evading me in frustrating ways. One pulled over right next to me, only to my exasperation to see it roll further few feet and stop next to a couple of homely looking aunties. Cab driver had exercised his discretion and left me with salty secretion on temples.

Then a seemingly mild-mannered Chachaa (former 'a' is pronounced quickly, later 'a' is pronounced elongated) cab driver let his benevolence fall over me. Unlike the usual demographics of Taxi Chachaas, he was neither a Muslim nor was he hailing from North India (becomes pretty apparent from accent). On our short journey back to my home (low fare --> another reason why I was being refused by others), Chachaa just happened to get himself in the wrong lane on a busy U-turn. After much cussing and hand-shaking at the driver in front of him, he could manage his way out gingerly among the red monster BEST buses and other nimble cabs. Stil hot under the collar, next he managed to set himself on collision course with a 4-wheeler contraption, which I have not seen in such huge numbers anywhere outside Mumbai; a scooter with a side-car. The 4-wheeler driver had much to say about Chachaa's eye-sight and driving skills even within the fraction of second in which the two vehicles hugged each other.

Chachaa was mutteing under his breath. I had had a long day, so just wanted to get out of the roads and shut out honking noises from my mind. Then, I dont know why, I just felt like making Chachaa feel a little better. Two battered souls fighting against unforgiving world inside same metallic combat vehicle. Exaggeration aparts, I offered Chachaa a glass of lassi at the end of our ride. He refused politely several times. But, I insisted. Earnestly. He gave excuse that there isnt much of parking space and his vehicle will get towed away. I offered to serve him lassi within the cab, he just had to stay inside.

Reluctantly he agreed. While I was fethcing him the drink, another passenger had already hailed him for next fare. The passenger was amused to see a guy dressed in business formals with a laptop bag on his shoulder bringing two glasses of lassi, placing them on the bonnet and sharing a drink with cab driver. He had started getting angry about why the driver was not turning on car's ignition. But this scene instantly changed his demeanor. A smile followed with a friendly allowance to Chachaa to enjoy his drink.

For a change, money could buy some genuine happiness. Chachaa looked satiated and went on his way muttering a shy thanks.

During my travels in Mumbai, I have had more than couple of instances when cab and auto-rickshaw drivers have gone out of their way to help / accommodate me. Once an auto-rickshaw driver let go of his fare because both he and I did not have requisite change. Another occasion I have been returned my laptop bag (containing passport and other extremely important documents,  apart of-course laptop) which I had left in a cab. And this after I had earlier chided the driver for asking me money upfront at beginning of ride as he wanted to get gas filled. I did earn a lesson or two from him on how to judge people all the while unable to meet his eyes as I said thanks.

While there have been bad eggs too, these fellows had left me with an undescribale sense of feel-goodness and added to my amazement about this place called Mumbai. Somewhere within me maybe today I spontaneously felt like repaying a small gesture to that often maligned community.

1 comment:

Dash said...

Dude looks like you're enjoying Mumbai ... B'lore won't have such nice auto guys :)