This time I picked with a bit of intent. I had been at Kurla Terminus taking photos of the crowds of people arriving in Bombay on the trains after the long trip from the eastern interiors of UP and Bihar. The area was full of taxis and drivers, trying to get passengers. I decided I would come back and talk to a taxi driver that worked out of the terminus. I used to often work the airport when I drove, not going into the lot to wait my turn but instead driving the lane in front of arrival and stealing tired fliers as they searched for the taxi stand in the confusion of the airport or standing by the exit door for the late nights flights. “Taxi?” “Taxi?” “Where you going?” Lal Mohammad Khan always starts from Kurla Terminus. I forgot to ask him why or any questions about things like that. Because when the conversation turned to his wild youth and then HIV/AIDs and nirodhs and safe sex and then kissing in taxis, it took on its own life. Click on link below to stream or right click to download. (20min 24 sec)
lal mohammad khan: bombay aisa saher hai yahaan jo ek time aajaata isko dusri jaga dil nahin lakta
Streets are cleared of hawkers and thela-walas. Markets are moved to Vashi. Streets are cleared again of hawkers and thela-walas. And again. The push to imagined modernity also pushes the people who work on the streets away, elsewhere. This ripples across the skein of working people connected to them in ways that are not visible. The hidden hardships are felt, and in this case, articulated in this outtake. (1 min 33 sec)
Kurla Terminus, officially Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, is a rail head in the eastern suburbs for trains coming in from the eastern, and southern parts of India. It is relatively newer. It hadn’t been built when Sagir Bhai arrived in Bombay. Back then, those trains terminated at VT.
We took the Eastern Express highway to Sion and then through Dharavi to the road to BKC that connects to the Western Express Highway. Right at the signal there when we turned left to go towards Bandra, we heard the police whistle and the havaldar jumped out and flagged us down. or so we thought. This is the view from the back of the taxi as I waited for him to come back.
Many of the taxis have florescent lights in them. The image in this blog header is a taxi driver in Mahim at night, with the green light shining from his ceiling. Lal Mohammad Khan’s taxi had a blue light inside and a light on the dashboard that shone out the windscreen, flashing and changing colours: red, blue, yellow
to see it in action and to see Lal Mohammad Khan, watch this video. The young boy who comes into the frame is the bhaji thela-wala ka ladka.
Lal Mohammad Khan’s taxi had some nice decoration.
and seat covers………..
Actually, I had a funny experience at Kurla. The first taxi I got into was with two brothers. They were Bombay Maharashtrian. I thought this would be something different and perhaps interesting, the non-immigrant experience. I had explained I would be recording the conversation and they agreed. Strangely, they insisted on showing me the taxi badge and taxi license. And a rate card that turned out to be some local printer job I think. We had already left the terminus and were winding our way through the lanes of Kurla East to reach the Expressway. I told them I would also be taking their photos and also explained how I would use the material and that they would also have a CD, DVD and hard copies of the photos. They were increasingly uneasy. No photos they said. Or, as a compromise, one brother would talk but the photos would be of the other brother. No photos of the taxi. I said lagta hai ki ap log biswas nahin karte hai issi mamla mein and if so, i will be quite happy to get down from the taxi. They pulled over to the side, I paid the Rs 13 and walked back to Kurla Terminus. There was this taxi with green decoration on the back and Lal Mohammad Khan leaning against the driver door. I explained where I was going and what I wanted to do and showed him the recorder. He smiled and said chelo.
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