Out of the warrens of Mangaldas market and into Badshah’s for a falooda. (Shalimar’s are better) A line of taxis. Arvind Kumar Rai slouching against his door, checking his cell phone. He is a HSC science graduate from UP. How many drivers have said they want to educate their sons so they won’t have to be taxi drivers. But Arvind likes the freedom of danda. Bosses think they own you he says and he earns more in the taxi than the naukris on offer. It was a hot humid heavy day of disappeared rains, the trough between massing storm clouds when there isn’t quite sun and there isn’t quite shadow and the light has a peculiar pewter cast. Second day of Ramzan and the day before Ganapati. Byculla he asks and up Mohammad Ali-Ambedkar Rds, over Currey Rd Station bridge and around to Tulsi Pipe. In the middle of the podcast where you hear him say “Madam thoda ek minute ruksakta, na?”, he is showing me his raised little finger. We stopped at the shauchalaya at Lower Parel. Click on link below to stream or right click to download. (22 min 34 sec)
arvind kumar rai: hai ke ni
We see people on the streets, on the trains, in buses, in the markets. All around us are dwellings. Which ones are theirs? Where do the taxi drivers go home to after we hear their story? Though this outtake is named room, its more about pani and mornings and divisions of labour. (1 min 9 sec)
10 hours a day x six days a week driving in Bombay traffic, talking (or not) to the strangers in the back seat. Then comes chutti ka din. This is what Arvind does on his day off. (48 sec)
Below are photos of Arvind going to the shauchalaya and coming back. Its on Sayani Marg, that road that when you want Tulsi Pipe but are coming up NM Joshi and can’t go straight onto Tulsi Pipe, you turn right onto it and then left from it and you are sitting at Elphistone signal on Tulsi Pipe.
As part of the narrative to turn Bombay into a world-class city, our netas and babus have visited Singapore and Shanghai and other cities that model this imaginary. From the first driver, Hari Lal Yadav, up to now with Arvind, we have been hearing anxiety of impending cancel of the kaali-peeli fiats. First it was any vehicle over 15 years old. When I recently met Junaid to give him his DVD and photos, he told me at the meeting of Taximans Union (Nav Jivan), Quadros had announced the decision that any vehicle older than 25 years old will be cancelled and off the road during next next 12 months. This will take minimum 8,000 or 20% of kaali-peeli taxis off the road. 8,000 to 16,000 drivers. What will they do and where will they go?
under the hood
In this outtake, Arvind talks about why he joined Nav Jivan Taximan’s Union, and what he thinks now. (1 min 14 sec)
These days, Raj Thackeray and his MNS goons have been taking on store owners and traders, insisting on signage in Marathi. मीतर डाअन Is that Marathi? I say its Hindi. Thackeray is also taking on the Bachchans and Shah Rukh Khan. But what about when he was creating havoc with the taxi drivers? Arvind talks about that time which may not have passed. (1 min 13 sec)
Always on the road in this traffic. I am impressed at how many of these drivers have not had accidents. Arvind is not one of them. (1 min 42 sec)
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