this blog is the space for the shownotes of my meter down podcast. each episode is a conversation with a bombay taxi driver as we drive through the city. the blog is in english but the conversations are in hindi. we will talk of migration and home, of bombay and change, of life and taxi driving. taxi drivers tell great taxi stories. I guess I should disclose at this point, I am an ex-taxi driver. I didn’t drive in bombay, I drove in los angeles, for 3 years, the night shift. though I had lived in LA for years, it wasn’t until I rode through the night streets of that far-flung city, that I got to know those layers beneath that layer of everyday life.
taxi drivers write the city. they move through its streets, they collect its stories, they are confronted with its changes. huts disappear and reappear, buildings rise up where there was some thing else, mills die and whole sections of the city and its people are no longer there or no longer the same. roads get widened, flyovers are built, people shift further north, or further east, there are new territories. we may pass through these or we may not. but taxis are constantly tracking these changes as their passengers bring them through the newnesses and they experience the absense of the old. the city and its people are their constant present and the rhythm and the changes stick to them. the story of the city pools in their taxis and it is theirs to tell.
and the taxi drivers themselves……..most are not from bombay, not from maharashtra. I am interested in this internal migration, the movement of people from the villages to this city that looks more outward to the globalised world than inward to its hinterlands. what have they left behind, who have they left behind, why did they come, what dreams did they bring and what dreams remain. where is home now. is there a return. what histories do they carry inside them that we don’t see.
and one more reason why taxi drivers. because their profession is poised to be swept along in this tufaan of change, this incredible rush to copy the forms of these already created future cities. new taxis of newer model cars are appearing on the roads, and they are being driven by a different type of driver. the kaali-peeli premier bombay taxi, with its mechanical meters, its bright rexine mudflaps, its radium designs across the boot and bonnet and doors, and the words on the back windows, like signs or clues, will slowly but inexorably disappear. the patterned seat covers, the mirrors on the ceilings, the dashboard displays, the creative and personal design that makes each taxi a signifier of self. something plain and pastel and tinny will take its place, perhaps it will be more comfortable but we will have lost something that expresses our city story. and what will become of these drivers, and their writing of our city?
I hope that some of my listeners are people who lived here and are now somewhere else. I know they miss bombay. I picture them listening to the podcast, sitting in the dark perhaps, hearing the ambient cacophony of the city outside the taxi, the names of places, or streets, the sound story of where they left, and for just a bit of time, ek pal, they can be back here, in bombay nagari, in amchi mumbai.
I would like to thank some people that helped me with these podcasts. rehaan for his FCP lesson, shivraj for his FCP lessons and being my sound guru, subuhi for her voice and the voiceover, kannu for endlessly listening to the interviews and keeping his objectivity in the face of my over-indulgence during the editing decisions.I have lived in bombay for 18 years. its my home and I too am a migrant here.