Archive for filmi

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


episode 9 nabob bhai

Posted in bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 10, February 2008 by meterdown

Samaad Ali Khan, he says in the podcast. But when I put his name into my phone, he said Nabob Bhai. That is what he goes by. I had gotten into his taxi in Bhendi Bazaar and we went up Amebedkar Rd, through Byculla to Saat Rasta and up Tulsi Pipe. You can hear the engine roaring while he is reciting Hindi lyrics as we climb the rise of the flyover. I usually ask the drivers if they ever had any trouble from the anti-bhaiyya rhetoric. Subash Chand had left the city because of it once. But mostly I heard ‘kaam-se-kaam’. Up til now, I had never included the answers. Until Nabob Bhai. I had kept my question and his answer in the podcast. And then a few days later, Raj Thackeray and his MNS goondas, in a bad imitation of his uncle’s sad, old campaign, set off this chain of maar-peeth bakwas, much of it symbolically aimed at a few drivers. We have multiple identities, from here and from there. What did Mushtaq and Sevalal say? Karmi bhumi and dharmi bhumi, but most important, Indian. Bombay sab ke liya hai. Hi speed internetwalas, click on the player. If too much buffering then click on nabob bhai podcast to listen. (20 min 5 sec)

nabob bhai podcast —> Right click here to download

Nabob Bhai: Kissi ki baap ke jagir nahin. Hindustan hamara. Hum azaad hai.

Sanjay Dutt, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachan, Hema Malini, Sridevi, Meena Kumari. We had a very filmi conversation. When I asked him the difference between Bombay ke log and UP ke log, he ended up talking about the film Coolie. Listen in this outtake. (1 min 24 sec)

or click here coolie film


I keep probing the idea of home, of desh, of mulak, of the multiplicities of belonging that saturate any act of migration, of leaving and arrival. I probe the drivers. And listen for clues to myself. I asked Nabob Bhai about Bombay and desh. He earns his do roti here so its also his desh. My answers are different. But then it wasnt majboori that brought me. (28 sec)

or click here ->desh


Nabob Bhai is a driver. He doesn’t own his taxi. It is the drivers that are the most vulnerable to the changes to the taxi trade. The taxi owners can sell their fiats for junk, and sell or lease their permit, to the fleet companies perhaps. The drivers can only find another taxi to lease. I asked Nabob Bhai why he doesn’t buy his own taxi. (35 sec)

or click here ->new vehicle

nabob-bhai5.jpg front-seat.jpg

I have yet to find a taxi driver who wanted their son to drive taxi or even would advise a young man from the village to get into taxi line. Nabob Bhai is no different. In fact he woudn’t wish it on an enemy. Listen to how he says that in this outtake. (1 min)

or click here -> advice to young men


Still hoping the Hindi translator/transcriber can start at the end of the month.

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.