I was in Bhendi Bazaar to buy two more flower painted trucks as I was still caught up in the post-rains house cleanup and organising efforts. I walked up Mohammad Ali Rd in the late-afternoon-almost-evening time of the day when the sun is so low in the sky its rays no longer light even the tops of the tallest buildings. Parked on the side of the road was Mohammad Mustaqeen Khan. He has been driving taxi for about 24 years. He came to Bombay from UP, a strong 20 year old man from a village, and started out in haath gadi at Do Tanki in Chor Bazaar area. Twenty-six years later he has bought more land, rebuilt his home, married off 4 children, all from driving taxi. We talk about street level economics, how much he used to make and what it bought, how much he makes now and what it buys. Click on ‘mohammad khan podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (25 min 8 sec)
mohammad khan podcast
mohammad khan: panch chhe rupiya mein kitna khasakta tha
Tur dal is Rs115/kilo. Tomater is Rs40/kilo. kanda/piyaz/onion are Rs18/kilo. one small bunch of kothmir/dhaniya is Rs5. Bhindi is Rs80/kilo. a kela/banana is Rs2. So what if cell phone rates have gone down and SMS is cheaper. What are people eating? How are people eating. We used to think of dal/roti as a staple, a fall back, the food of the masses. Or a roti and an onion. The only way to make dal now to keep within a budget is half the dal and double the pani. I was at MTNL the other day and the woman there told me she has stopped having people come home. In the outtake below Mohammad Khan talks about mangai. (28 sec)
outtake mangai tur ka dal
We went up Ambedkar Rd, over the Byculla Bridge, out Saat Raasta to Moses Rd. You hear me tell him to take Tulsi Pipe. Its a good view and I want to track the changes in the skyline, the ‘progress’ of the buildings emerging from where Jupiter and Elphistone Mills used to be. Below are photos of Ambedkar Rd, just before the Byculla Bridge.
My father always taught me economics by asking how long it takes to earn my do roti. What Mohammad Khan is saying is that he used to eat for 5-6 rupees what today costs Rs 30-35. He earns at the end of the day almost three times as much as he did when he started driving taxi but his costs have gone up much more. If in 10 hours he earned 80 rupees it took him about 40 minutes to earn dinner. If in 10 hours he now earns 250 rupees, its taking him an hour and about 10 minutes to earn dinner. And I didn’t ask him about room rent.
We started talking about 26/11 but the conversation quickly turned to driving a private vehicle. He drove for a man from his village that does bhangaar and has an Ambassador. He was paid Rs600/mo. This is the same amount the Sevalal earns driving a Honda City for the wife of the couple that live in the luxury highrise. (1 min 15 sec)
outtake driving private
There was an article in DNA with the headline ‘Mumbai Taxis May Soon Turn Yellow’. You can read it here. I haven’t read about it anywhere else but according to the article, the state transport minister Vikhe-Patil announced at a taxi man’s union meeting that he wanted the kaali-peeli taxis to have a make-over, to match this new imaginary city. As he put it, “With the changing skyline of the city and with the introduction of the metro and the monorail, the taxis should also don a new look.” I put that at about the same level of governance and economic upliftment as I do the renaming of the airports. Thinking outside the colour scheme or at least half of it. The taxi union has agreed if the city pays for it..’incentives for the expenditure to be incurred’. Least they could do after not giving any incentives on the expenditures incurred on the new vehicles for cancelled fiats.
More on our city. We decided to take SV Rd instead of Reclamation to avoid that massive jam at Lilavati that happens every evening now that the Sealink traffic empties at high speeds onto that road and impatient drivers commandeer the opposite side of the road, thus backing up traffic in that direction and turning the Lilavati junction to gridlock.. SV Rd of course isn’t better and is further exacerbated by the skywalk being built down the middle of the street. He is more hopeful than I am. (18 sec)
outtake bandra west skywalk
I am hopeful too. I love this city.
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