The cost of the taxi ride from the office to West Bandra is never the same, dependant on a complex equation involving the time of year, the weather, the taxi driver and how generous you are feeling.



They operate within districts
I don’t think this is the official policy and if you ask them to go to the other end of Mumbai, sixty kilometers away, they are duty-bound to take you

Now West Bandra is only five kilometers away from where I’m working, but most taxi drivers are reluctant to go there
The traffic is bad during the rush hour which seems to extend a few hours earlier and a few hours later than you might expect

The journey would take an hour
But if the driver drove on the right side of the road and didn’t run pedestrians off it, it would take half an hour more

Cars sound their horns perpetually
I’m surprised; the Mumbaikar driver is careful with his lights, upholstery and brakes, but not his horn
Use of the horn shows a disregard about the condition of his battery
Conversely, he will eagerly switch off his headlamps in pitch darkness to conserve it

The horn seems to be a nervous reflex born out of impatience, there is no logic to its use
It’s very difficult to know where the sound is coming from amid the cacophony so its intent is completely lost

Another disadvantage of a taxi ride home was the bridge over the Mithi River along Swami Vivekanand Road, and apart from a big detour or the toll bridge there was no way of avoiding it

Murray, our companies driver, had an air-conditioned Mitsubishi which cocooned us from some of the harsh realities of Mumbai, but the taxis had no such luxury: air conditioning meant opening the window
The Mithi River is an unofficial sewer pipe and at the mouth where it flows into the Indian Ocean it’s the width of the Thames: so there is quite a lot of sewage

Pearl divers regularly jump off the bridge to retrieve coins from the bed
It was lucky for Mumbaikars to throw their coins into the river
The major hazard is not the effluent, as you might think, but the toxic heavy chemicals, industry pumps into it further upstream
A big price to pay for a few Rupees a day

I’m amused that smoking is not allowed in taxis; that taxi drivers have such a sensibility to airborne pollution
When they step from their cab into the streets of Mumbai they experience the worst polluted city in the world
Though these days Beijing is probably winning this contest

So a hundred Rupees should have got me home but at times it could be three or four hundred
I minded less the price than a refusal to go to West Bandra
I’d mastered the art of seating myself comfortably in the taxi before telling the driver where I was going
Usually this overcame any reluctance they had

I grudgingly accepted the taxi drivers, admiring and rewarding with a few rupees more their resilience, doing a job that really tested their patience and offered modest returns
One evening Ravi told me that before he starts earning, every evening he has to pay his boss five hundred Rupees to use the car, as few drivers can afford their own

photography and text by Tim Harris
This entry was published on May 18, 2017 at 6:30 pm. It’s filed under India, Travel, Vehicle and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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