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episode 25 idris

Posted in bombay, hindi, migration, podcast, taxi, taxi story, union with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 19, January 2010 by meterdown

I was at TISS for a conference and it was evening. As I walked out to the street,  there were some taxis parked around the taxi stand sign, the drivers leaning against their taxis talking or wiping them down with those soft clothes sold by hawkers at signals, the taxis shining in the light of the street lamps. My cellphone rang and by the time I clicked off, the taxis were gone. I stood watching the traffic surge by when the signal at the corner was green, and enjoying the sudden absense of sound when the signal was red. Rickshaws slowed down in front of me as the drivers and I locked eyes, theirs in that unspoken question – auto chahiye –  and then sped off. A taxi stopped. It was Idris who is from Gujarat and came to the city 30 years ago. This is the 25th episode, which is an occasion of sorts, so in celebration of that and because Idris is engaging and loquacious, its the longest podcast so far. Click on ‘idris podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (31 min 40 sec)

idris podcast

idris: kwahish ek hi madam ke bas, uparwala apna imaan ke saath khatma kare

Idris lives in Dharavi. In the podcast we discuss the Dharavi redevelopment plans. In the outtake below we have a difference of opinion about compensation for those that will be project affected. We also have different levels of faith, both in the promises made and in the intentions behind the project. But I don’t live in Dharavi. But he is not in danger of ‘resettlement’.  (2 min 14 sec)

outtake dharavi discussion with differences


Idris owns his flat along with his brothers. They booked and bought it about 8 years ago for Rs1.8L. Today it would be 40L. All the brothers worked for a time in Saudi. If they hadn’t, they probably wouldn’t have been able to buy a flat. Not even in Dharavi eight years ago. Their 570 sq ft piece of solidity. Solidity is difficult to purchase on a worker’s salary. Solidity is difficult to come by here in our Bombay for people whose family home is or was elsewhere. Solidity, a place of one’s own, and in his case, a feeling of safety. (1 min 20 sec)

outtake idris’ flat


Idris thinks that the problem is that our wants have increased. We used to be content with only having two or three sets of clothes. True, today there is more to buy, we want more, and living demands more wrap-around accouterments. But prices have gone up more than our ability to earn. When Idris made rs90/day, ghee cost rs30/kilo. Now he takes home on average rs300/day but ghee costs rs300/kilo. He used to earn 3 kilos a day driving taxi. Now he earns only one. The outtake below talks about the price of real estate in Dharavi and his earnings, then and now. (1 min 5 sec)

outtake rocketing real estate

One night I was coming back from Pune and I got down from the bus in Sion and took a rick back home. We went through Dharavi and I took this video of the street that Idris lives on. Just as we were getting to Idris’ building, at that T junction, a bus pulled up along side, blocking the view. I would like to shoot more of the streets that we journey on as we talk. But I am holding the recorder and even more so, if I turn away from the rhythms of our conversation, I am turning away from the small connections being created.

Idris has four daughters all married and two sons, both of whom are in Saudi working. In this outtake he speaks of his daughters and his sons. (1 min 3 sec)

outtake daughters and sons


I have yet to hear a driver praise the union. You won’t hear it here. (1 min 36 sec)

outtake union and taxi cancellations


Before I get into any taxi, I explain what I am going to do, ask questions, which questions, record, take photos. It isn’t until later as we are rolling along, am I sometimes asked why I am doing it and what will I do with it. This is how the conversation went with Idris. (14 sec)

outtake internet

When I got into the taxi, Idris got a phone call. This is a video of us driving down the Chembur street in evening traffic, one hand on the steering wheel, one hand on the phone.

The cancelled taxis are sold for scrap at Do Tanki in Chor Bazaar. Seva Lal got Rs12,000 and Rafiq got about the same. I was there last week buying old taxi fiat steering wheels. I have been there many times buying wheels, buying old taxi rear view mirrors but I have never seen it so full of parts. The dukan ka seth I buy from (the one with all the radiators in the beige shirt) who deals in old fiat parts said yes, there is lots of maal, lots of parts because of all the cancelled taxis, but there were less buyers also now with so many less fiats on the road. I took this video. The noise you hear in the background is the hammering of cars into parts. This is where the taxis go. (when was the last time you saw a water carrier like this? another once commonplace sight that is slowing becoming absent until you are surprised to see one)

Taxis are in the news again. This time it is because they are now going to be radio dispatched from call centres. The union has agreed. I guess they are trying to keep up with Meru. I am a bit confused as to which ones will be included in this new scheme, the new ‘yellow’ taxis? the new vehicles? and who will run the call centre? Read about it here and here.

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

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episode 13 junaid

Posted in bombay, hindi, migration, podcast, taxi with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 17, August 2008 by meterdown

Raining in Bombay, finally again after a month long disappearance. It was the monday evening after the Ahmedabad bombings and after a weekend of heavy rains. The city felt wet and still and it glistened in the street lights. I was at Kala Ghoda. The first driver I spoke to flatly refused saying he couldn’t drive in the rain and talk at the same time. I went ahead a few taxis and found Junaid. He is from Gujarat, from the Chiliya community. Many of the drivers had spoken about the Chiliya log, that they were the original taxi drivers when taxis first came to Bombay. Sagir Bhai’s taxi ka seth was Chiliya. The drivers had all praised the them, saying they were honest, jyada baat nahin karte, and kam se kam. But Junaid is 23 and he likes to talk. The smile on his face….you can hear it in his voice. Click on link below to stream or right click to download. (26 min 01 sec)

junaid podcast

Junaid: Kismat mein jitna rehta, itna milta

The dance bars are as much a part of this city as the red buses or kaali-peeli taxis. If a film has a dance bar scene, it signals the setting is Bombay. This outtake is the rest of the conversation about the dance bars Junaid doesn’t frequent. I asked him about the women that danced in the bars. His thoughts intrigue me because they don’t touch on morality, the good or bad of the women. (3 min 50 sec)

outtake bars and bar girls

The next three outtakes are one flow of conversation that due to length, I divided up and are in order from the beginning to end. In Junaid’s village, the girls aren’t married until they are in their late teens or early twenties. But the sagai is arranged years before. Junaid doesn’t think this is right and he explains why. (1 min 42 sec)

outtake jaldi sagai achha nahin

From sagai accha nahin to ladki accha nahin. The ladki is the woman Junaid is engaged to be married to in 8 months. But it isn’t Junaid saying accha nahin. It is his neighbors and his family. His feelings are soft and warm and protective. and determined. (2 min 17 sec)

outtake ladki acchhi nahin

Kismat runs through this podcast. In this outtake Junaid elaborates and embroidered into the fabric of his thoughts is a silken thread of defense of his wife-to-be. (54 sec)

outtake kismat

I ask about the leaving from home and the coming into the city. I ask about what has been left behind and how that left behind is experienced, this continuum of inhabiting here and inhabiting there. Junaid speaks of the Chiliya community in the village and I hear the story of gaon mein aisa hai and traces of sheher mein aisa nahin hota. We all have our stories of adaptation, in large ways and incremental ways, to the complexities of our lives in these times. (1 min 46 sec)

outtake chiliyan gaon mai aisa hai

The men are away working and the villages are full of women raising the children. I have wondered about that, especially about the boy children. I asked Junaid what advice he would give a 12 year old from his village that wanted to come work in Bombay. His answer gives thought to my wondering.

outtake 12 saal ka ladka

I haven’t posted in a long time. I was travelling through Spain and then back overland through Turkey, Syria and then flight to Peshawar and through Pakistan to Wagah, Amritsar and Golden Mail back to Bombay. I didn’t ride in any taxis, but I have this photo of a taxi dashboard in Damascus.

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