Back at Crawford Market. I had walked from VT, searching for one of the new taxis, an omni, an alto, the new kaali-peelis. They are beginning to appear on the streets as the over 25 year old taxis are cancelled. I couldnt find any so again walking the taxi line and I saw a taxi with an array of tigers on the back windscreen. Ahh, Shiv Sena I thought. This might be an interesting conversation. The driver agreed to recording our conversation. When I got in I saw the decorations on the dashboard and the front windscreen and had a moment of dissonance. Kadeer started the engine and I started the recorder. He talks much faster than he drives. Click on ‘kadeer podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download or click kadeer under podcast feed in column on right side. (23 min 28 sec)
kadeer: mera niyaat achcha karna ke liya sochta
I took a photo of his Shiv Sena card but the camera couldn’t focus through the opaque, foggy plastic protector. Kadeer isn’t very different from the netas who switch parties, not because of a change in beliefs but because of some personal advancement. Or the political parties that partner up with yesterday’s opposition to better the equation to stay in or gain power. Kadeer isn’t switching between parties and Kadeer isn’t trying to gain power. Just trying to keep it steady.
Cultural terrorism has ratcheted up its violence. Roving groups of vigilantes are attacking women for entering male spaces and enacting in public, male acts such as drinking alcohol. Or these same men, wearing western clothes, attack women for wearing western jeans. or being alone on the streets at night. This violence against women by individuals is just part of the trajectory that extends out of actions by the State. In Bombay they went after the bar girls and closed the bars. Women sitting together outside, on a bench, by the sea, in a car, after midnight are told to go home by police roaming the streets on their bikes or in their qualises or those big dark blue vans with the yellow stripes. Couples are harassed and arrested for public displays of affection in parks or at the water’s edge by the sea. This outtake talks about the Bandra-Worli sealink and then the police at reclamation lovers’ lane. (1 min 22 sec)
I am being prosaic if I write about the cyclical nature of Bombay road work. The machines that appear as soon as the rains stop to dig up the road that was dug up and finished last year, well after the rains started. We were struck in traffic on the Mahim end of the Western Highway, below the western line trains are running and the Mithi River and the green of the mangroves. The workers were doing something on that part of the road where the highway is getting ready to end, widening or patching or digging and most of the lanes were closed down. As we nudged our way into the bottleneck, this was our conversation. He calls it a gandi baat. (36 sec)
What is the middle class? Is it that large majority that neither lives in a jopadpatti or a luxury flat, driven around in a mercedes? Are the highly paid IT workers middle class and the BMC primary school teacher who rides second class from Bhayander or Dombivili both middle class? Were the mill workers middle class? Kadeer locates himself firmly within the middle class which he then defines. The bada class he says can’t sleep at night. They have big tensions. Chotta class has smaller tensions. I don’t think its a matter of the height of the fall or the weight of the money but rather the precipitousness of the consequences. Maybe the poor don’t spend on a luxury like neend ki goli. (2 min 3 sec)
As we wound around the bylanes of Bandra, avoiding the road work between Lilavati and Baristas, Kadeer started talking about playing housie and the different places on which night he goes to. It took me a few days into the edit to understand that housie is bingo. Am i right? I loved his description. (33 sec)
These photos are of Crawford Market and the street in front of it. Kadeer was just pulling out of the taxi line and I was shooting through the window. Look lovingly at Crawford Market. Once again it is poised on the tip of a decision; is the whole structure Heritage Grade I or just part of the facade and the tower? Will it remain as we see it or will some large looming cement and glass edifice rise from its centre and wrap around and devour it?
A plethora of TV stations come to us through cable. In these days of 24 hours news stations, in all languages, competing for many of the same segments, its hard to separate the fact from the fantastical sometimes especialy since often they are presented as the same thing. In this outtake Kadeer recounts what he saw on the news and then his favourite programme on his favourite channel. (52 sec)
In the photos of the dashboard above, there is a newpapers rolled and stuck behind the decorations. It carries news of and for the diaspora and it has a special section for overseas, outside of India, assignments. Kadeer wants to get out of the taxi, get out of India and make some money. A migrant in waiting.
We all have our stories of trudging through the rain and waist high water the day of the flood on 26 July. I was in Lower Parel, at work. My neighbor was near Mahalakshmi Station. We met on Tulsi Pipe and walked to Bandra. What i remember the most, even more than the thigh high water that filled my ground floor house, is the people who lived in the jopadpattis that lined Tulsi Pipe Rd at that time. The streets were flooded, their shanties were flooded yet they piled whatever they could find to demarcate the open drainage holes and various ditches in the road and stood out in the rain that night, to warn us, the multitudes wading thru the waters, so no one would fall in. This is not a spirit of Bombay story necessarily, though it could be written up and prismed that way. I wonder where they went after their jopadi were torn down. Here is Kadeer’s story. (50 sec)
Kadeer bought the taxi from another driver seven months ago. That driver took out a loan and Kadeer pays him monthly on the loan terms. Rs 4,000/mo. If he drives 6 days a week, that is about Rs170/per day that he has to earn to pay the loan. This is actually better than if he were a driver leasing a taxi where the first Rs/200 per day would be for the owner. In this outtake Kadeer talks about the union and the loan. (49 sec)
Taxis have been in the news lately. There was an article about permits and how the state government is thinking of making this system of agreements legal. I had no idea that it wasn’t. In the podcast with Kadeer, with Sebi, with Junaid they all speak about the permit system. Here is a Times of India article on the legalising of the “rampant illegal transfers“. Here is another Times of India article explaining the number of cancelled taxis and the terms for getting new vehicles. And what about the 25 year old taxis that are still driving around? DNA explains what actions are being taken to stop them in their tracks here.
and after the news, a shameless plug.
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