Raining in Bombay, finally again after a month long disappearance. It was the monday evening after the Ahmedabad bombings and after a weekend of heavy rains. The city felt wet and still and it glistened in the street lights. I was at Kala Ghoda. The first driver I spoke to flatly refused saying he couldn’t drive in the rain and talk at the same time. I went ahead a few taxis and found Junaid. He is from Gujarat, from the Chiliya community. Many of the drivers had spoken about the Chiliya log, that they were the original taxi drivers when taxis first came to Bombay. Sagir Bhai’s taxi ka seth was Chiliya. The drivers had all praised the them, saying they were honest, jyada baat nahin karte, and kam se kam. But Junaid is 23 and he likes to talk. The smile on his face….you can hear it in his voice. Click on link below to stream or right click to download. (26 min 01 sec)
Junaid: Kismat mein jitna rehta, itna milta
The dance bars are as much a part of this city as the red buses or kaali-peeli taxis. If a film has a dance bar scene, it signals the setting is Bombay. This outtake is the rest of the conversation about the dance bars Junaid doesn’t frequent. I asked him about the women that danced in the bars. His thoughts intrigue me because they don’t touch on morality, the good or bad of the women. (3 min 50 sec)
The next three outtakes are one flow of conversation that due to length, I divided up and are in order from the beginning to end. In Junaid’s village, the girls aren’t married until they are in their late teens or early twenties. But the sagai is arranged years before. Junaid doesn’t think this is right and he explains why. (1 min 42 sec)
From sagai accha nahin to ladki accha nahin. The ladki is the woman Junaid is engaged to be married to in 8 months. But it isn’t Junaid saying accha nahin. It is his neighbors and his family. His feelings are soft and warm and protective. and determined. (2 min 17 sec)
Kismat runs through this podcast. In this outtake Junaid elaborates and embroidered into the fabric of his thoughts is a silken thread of defense of his wife-to-be. (54 sec)
I ask about the leaving from home and the coming into the city. I ask about what has been left behind and how that left behind is experienced, this continuum of inhabiting here and inhabiting there. Junaid speaks of the Chiliya community in the village and I hear the story of gaon mein aisa hai and traces of sheher mein aisa nahin hota. We all have our stories of adaptation, in large ways and incremental ways, to the complexities of our lives in these times. (1 min 46 sec)
The men are away working and the villages are full of women raising the children. I have wondered about that, especially about the boy children. I asked Junaid what advice he would give a 12 year old from his village that wanted to come work in Bombay. His answer gives thought to my wondering.
I haven’t posted in a long time. I was travelling through Spain and then back overland through Turkey, Syria and then flight to Peshawar and through Pakistan to Wagah, Amritsar and Golden Mail back to Bombay. I didn’t ride in any taxis, but I have this photo of a taxi dashboard in Damascus.
The intro music in the podcast is the song Boombai Nagari from the movie Taxi 9211, sung by Bappa Lahiri, Merriene , Nisha and Vishal Dadlani.
Music by Vishal Dadlani and Shekar, lyrics by Vishal Dadlani and Dev Kohli