Archive for hindi

episode 28 tanaji

Posted in bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi, taxi story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16, April 2012 by meterdown

It admittedly was awhile ago. After the last bomb blast. My work travel continues to deplete both my time and that extra amount of energy it takes to create. When i’m depleted, I’d rather just read. Mind feed. I was at Fort, getting printer ink and since the store is almost next to Yazdani’s, brun-maska and chai, and since Strand is near by, a browse for sustenance. And a purchase or two. I realize that a few of these conversations have started from this point. Sheshnath Tripathi. Rafiq. But this time it is Tanaji. He is Maharashtrian, from around Kolhapur. We went past VT and up Mohammad Ali Road flyover. We were deep into conversation as he openly shared about his life and arrival, when, somewhere after the Byculla flyover, I noticed that the telltale red light on the recorder wasn’t on. Somehow I hadn’t pushed start hard enough or perhaps I had pushed it twice. I turned it on and the conversation starts with this already established comfort and participation in, together, recovering this lost ground so we can continue our conversation. Click on ‘tanaji podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (35 min 40 sec)

tanaji podcast

tanaji: meriku bombay bahut pyara hai

This was a frisky conversation. It maybe because of the way it started, with the misfire. We became accomplices in recreating the energy  that wasn’t recorded at the beginning. Capital punishment, Kasab, Osama Bin Laden, the response of the USA, love marriage, the natal family’s responsibility towards an unhappy or endangered married daughter. Tanaji and I don’t agree on anything but the discussion is thoughtful and friendly. I had no ready answer for the point he made that keeping political prisoners, or terrorists, in jail creates the vulnerability to hijacks or kidnappings where the prisoner is the barter. Here is the answer: This is no justification for capital punishment.

   

Tanaji is a 12th pass, HSC. He came to Bombay with the hope of a good job. But his real dream was to become a mechanic and open a garage. He took a course and got a certificate. He tried to open his garage, he found a place, but there was no money so success nahin hopaya. He can fix engines, he can fix cars. He says that if he had a garage or two today his life would be different. He might not have to be in a taxi. He might have a small flat of his own. The ‘haves’ in this country, say that their success was earned on merit and their honest sweat. Metaphorical sweat to be sure. It is hard to work up a sweat between the AC home to the AC car to the AC office, mall, store, restaurant and back. Out at the boundary, away from the pitch, the field looks different. It is full of khaddas and divets and strewn with pebbles and the ball takes these funny hops away, in random directions, this ball of opportunity. It has always seemed to be that amongst the people with privilege, and I include myself, even the most mediocre of us can find success in the world. Not so the rest, even for the most modest of dreams. (1 min 40 sec)

outtake peheli ka kwahish

While we were talking Tanaji got a phone call. It was one of his regular customers that calls to book his taxi sometimes for his morning ride. A short trip in Vile Parle to somewhere in Vile Parle, but it is near Tanaji’s home and it starts his day well. Many of the taxi drivers have these regular customers. Even today, or perhaps even more so today, in this time of Meru and Mega and Easy cabs. (2 min 33 sec)

outtake phone call regular customer

So what about this conversation of ours, especially about our daughters, our endangered daughters returning home. I still think that Tanaji was making a majak with me, he was kidding me, when he said let them burn her. Wait til his daughter, the one who he speaks of so fondly, the one who is so smart and is showing so much promise, leaves his home to join another. Hopefully his patriarchal posturing will melt away. Adjustments are made to the cultural rigidities that attempt to deny women the safety of return.  I only hope that his daughter, unlike so many other dutiful daughters, will realise this instead of enacting upon herself that ultimate act of hopelessness. Or stay silent and suffer, so as not to give tension to her parents, until her susaral log enact that ultimate act upon her.

In this conversation, the taxi union had just called off a strike. The government agreed to take on the idea of increasing fares and the unions. Today both auto and taxi unions are calling for strikes. The taxi union had declared 2 May for the Maharastra wide strike. The government responded by agreeing to form a new taxi trade fare committee as the union had claimed that the old Hakim committee formula was 15 years old and outdated. As of yet, the strike has not be called off. I certainly support their demand for higher fares, both the taxis and the autos. Especially the autos. In my latest round of travels, namely Coimbatore, Cochin, Chennai. Jaipur and Bangalore, our Bombay rickshaws are the cheapest. and rigged meters or not, at least they down the meter and return the change unasked. CNG is going up, food prices are going up, inflation is holding steady at just under double digits (they say). People need to eat. They need not to be making less money than they were last year or last week.

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 27 kader usman mujawar

Posted in bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi, taxi story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 13, June 2011 by meterdown

My Aunt was on a cruise that docked in Bombay for a day or two. We were to meet at Green Gate at Ballard Estate and I was to come aboard to see what a cruise ship looks like inside. This never happened because of a labyrinth of Catch-22 permission and permit loops that took us to various offices until we finally gave up and sat at Samovar, chatting.  We took a taxi to Yellow Gate that then took her inside to the embarkation place of her soon to be leaving boat. Outside of Yellow Gate I looked around and there was Kader Usman Mujawar in his taxi. He is from Maharashtra, from Karad, and he came here when he was 18, as an 8th class pass, looking to find a job in a Mill or the Fiat factory, but ironically, instead, he has been driving a Fiat taxi for the past 25 years. Click on ‘kader usman mujawar podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (25 min 20 sec)

kader usman mujawar podcast

kader usman mujawar: yeh bijnes mila apenko, aur kya

Mujawar Bhai’s son has had difficulty getting employment. ‘When they hear a Mian Bhai name, they tell us kal ao. But don’t put that on the internet, this thing we are discussing.’ After I turned off the recorder, I asked him again for permission to leave that in the recording. He was non-committal, but had not said yes. During the edit I left it in and when i finished, I called him. My Hindi is good, but not good enough to explain on the phone, what the internet actually is and what a podcast actually is and who hears it and what can or can’t happen, to someone who doesn’t participate in this online world. I had Jamid Ali call him to explain and answer any questions. Afterward I called Mujawar Bhai and he said yes, leave it in. He was worried that someone would hear it and he would somehow be in trouble. This is where we are in this place in this city at this time. Here is the truth, a truth that is experienced, and a truth that is known to many. But to say it out into the public sphere, is fraught with unease and  foreboding.  This is a double weight, the weight of the experience and the weight of the silencing.

     

I’m interested in the journeys that the drivers take through the city. Where were they before I got in their cab. What are the routes they have traced through the city through the day? I love maps and I imagine an interactive map tracing our route layered over our conversation and photos. Our route and our words, entwined and made visible, the verbal tread marks of our interplay.  Photos, video clips, words, streets, locations. Someday maybe. Any ideas are welcome. In the meantime, here is a little outtake of what brought Mujawar Bhai to Yellow Gate. (46 sec)

outtake yellowgate

  

A few days before I met Mujawar Bhai, I was at Opera House, trying to buy 1/2′ steel colour radium strips that are the base for my steering wheel wrappings, over which I wrap that brightly neon coloured plastic rope that you see on some taxi steering wheels. The shop I go to was out so instead I bought some 1″ naurangi and a cutter to cut it into 1/2″. Even though we were at Yellow Gate, I asked Mujawar Bhai to go to Gans Gali to see if a radiumwala might be there. When we reached, he asked a taxi driver leaning against a taxi. This outtake is the conversation. (1 min 27 sec)

outtake looking for radium

We did go to Saat Raasta but the store was closed. Below is the a strip of the 1.2″ steel colour and the 1″ naurangi and the cutter.

While we were talking and driving, one of those large Pajaro cars that sit so high, came fast at us from a street that entered from our left. It was clearly one of those moves to intimidate us into stopping so it could make its right turn across our path. Mujawar Bhai didn’t even blink. I asked him about it.

outtake bada gadi k dadagiri

 

Mujawar Bhai was in Bombay in 1992-1993 during the riots. Whenever I ask a driver – and I ask every driver who has been in Bombay that long- all I say is 92-93. They know what I am asking about. It has left a mark, it scathed this city and all you have to name is those years.

outtake 92-93

Look closely, you will see me taking his photo, reflected in his glasses.

The most delightful thing happened. Anish Kothari, who has left comments on the blog and with whom I have corresponded, wrote me an email volunteering to translate the podcast into English. This is  a true gift from him. I have wanted both translation into English and transliteration in Hindi. I asked Anish to write a little paragraph on himself so that people can get to know him and his presence on the internet. This is what he wrote:  ‘Anish recently returned from Mumbai where he had many interesting conversations with taxi and auto drivers. You can read his blog or follow him on Twitter. You can also thank him. I’m thanking him over and over.  Don’t miss his blog. Its very thoughtful and it has some wonderful images. So click here to read the English translation of the podcast. Its nice if you can follow along to the audio so you can hear the nuances of voice.

People who follow these taxi conversations often ask me to broach subjects with the drivers. I’m quite happy to do so because it brings in fresh ideas and openings into the exchanges. One person brought up this white uniform-khakhi uniform division, this differentiator that signals a place in a hierarchy. And then this article.  Sometimes people request questions that transgress the delicate boundaries of congruity and decorum. I am a woman. The driver is a man. The taxi encloses us in a private intimate space with only a seat back between us, breached by my arm and the recorder. We are talking of his life and I am trying to build trust. So when we talk of passengers kissing in the backseat or safe sex, there is a sweet chasteness in the words, as if we are balancing between danger and rectitude. Instead I can post this, a wonderful article by Ally Gator in Timeout where he explores in full those areas I can not.

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 26 sheshnath tripathi

Posted in bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi, taxi story with tags , , , , , , , , on 9, April 2011 by meterdown

A long time ago I was wandering around Kala Ghoda and in the back lanes of Fort again having brun maska at Yazdani’s and generally being a flaneur in the galis and by-lanes and in Horniman Circle on some hot sweaty Bombay day. It was time to return back home and time to talk to a driver so along came a taxi and i raised my hand and here is a delighted Sheshnath Tripathi. Sheshnath is from Gorakhpur UP and has been in Bombay 20 years and started driving taxi 18 years ago. He went into the transport business, owning taxis and lorrys, but now that it over and he is in debt and back in the taxi, his taxi. He loves the news, reading the news and watching the news and we talk of politics, parties, politicians and civic responsibilities. Click on ‘sheshnath tripathi podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (35 min 3 sec)

sheshnath tripathi podcast

sheshnath: anne ke bad yeh samjho ke bhago bhago bhago

It is a given in Bombay that you don’t stop to help an accident victim or involve yourself as a witness to a violence or a crime or anything to do with the police because you will be entangled forever in the court cases or possibly become a suspect yourself. People will look away, they walk away and then maybe stand at a distance and watch. And I’m not counting the famous cases where men didn’t come to the aid of  women who were being sexually assaulted and raped in public, in front of them, in the general car of a train. Sheshnath has a different idea of what it takes to be a citizen, which includes intervention, protection and bearing witness. (55 sec)

outtake citizenship

This next outtake is a long one but its interesting. Organic farmers’ markets have started appearing on weekends in different parts of the city. I have never gone because they felt like an implant from elsewhere that was being grafted onto a city that teemed with markets already. I knew that urea and DAT were used on wheat along with gober composted in a raari. Without urea, the new seed types don’t produce much. What I wasn’t seeing, wasn’t wanting to see, was the extensive use of herbicides and pesticides.  We speak here about farming today, on his 10 bighas and what he grows and what he uses and his reasoning, this tradeoff between a good harvest and using poisons.  Its sad. I love bhatawaa. (4 min 7 sec)

outtake kheti

Shethnath doesn’t like cricket, he doesn’t watch films and here is what he did on Holi. You can see where I am going with this. (47 sec)

outtake holi

Sheshnath first settled in Mulund and then Malad and now he lives in a room in Andheri East, a 10×20 room, with his wife and two children. He speaks of moving back to Gorakhpur but his children are in good schools, good private schools for which he pays tuition that leaves him in this 10×20 room. I imagine that his home in his village is much larger, with a rasoi, a private area room where women sit, a public area room where male visitors sit, an aangan inside and a place to sit outside where people passing come to sit with him for while, or yell a greeting as they pass. The trade-offs of leaving a village and moving to a city like Bombay. You leave behind space and family and community and hopefully in exchange you gain money for the present  and for the future, an education for your children. But the sadness of Sheshnath was that when he had a chance for a home of his own here, he didn’t take it. (1 min 28 sec)

outtake room and rent

All of you in Bombay, when you go out today, of the first 10 taxis you see, how many of them are fiats? I’d say, unless you are at Maratha Mandir, 5 were fiats and 5 were a new vehicle. The inexorable is relentless and changing slowly the city. Sheshnath knows that and though he has 10 years left before his taxi will be cancelled, he is going to buy a new vehicle soon. He says mehsoos hota when passengers get into the new vehicles instead of his fiat. But other changes to kaali-peeli have been proposed: 7-seaters, call centres, GPS. We discuss there. (1 min 53 sec)

outtake new taxi ideas

Taxis have been in the news. On 27 October it was the 100 year anniversary of taxis on the streets of Bombay. DNA wrote an article that, though it didn’t go into the history much, was very nice nonetheless. Other news is quite so laudatory. RTO in it extreme silliness had decided to change the colour  from kaali-peeli to well, they weren’t sure, but in this article it seems that the transport minister, Mr. Vikhe-Patil likes peaches and cream. The final decision however, rests with the MMRTA comprising bureaucrats from the department and officials from the RTO. This makes me very sad, this erasing of kaali-peeli. I can’t seem to work up enough cynicism or jaded worldliness to be able to smile wryly, shake my head sagely and move on.

Here are some happier links. A very nice article in Mid-day on Meter Down with a photo of Jamid Ali and me, and little side bar quotes and photos with Junaid and Anil Chauhan.  It also references a conference at India Cultural Lab called Urban Reimagination, put together by Paresh Sahani at which I spoke about migration and Bombay taxi drivers. The Facebook page has photos and videos. I was also interviewed on the Tiffin Talk show on Dabba Radio that is hosted by Richard Thane. My interview is here and Dabba Radio is here.

Sitting in the back seat reaching over with my little digital recorder while the driver watches the road, negotiating the traffic and talking with me. This is what it looks like.

A short note on why its taken me so long to post here and release a podcast. The nature of my job that pays the rent has intensified and has me traveling quite often, throughout India, for weeks at a time. I’ve been finding it hard to keep up with my heart’s work. I’ve gotten more used to this travel now and it doesn’t leave me so depleted and wanting to just read or see my friends. I’ve already got another conversation to start editing and I’m committed to keep talking to the drivers, blogging and podcasting as best I can.

so, til next time.

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 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 24 mohammad khan

Posted in bombay, hindi, migration, podcast, taxi, taxi story, union with tags , , , , , , , , on 3, December 2009 by meterdown

I was in Bhendi Bazaar to buy two more flower painted trucks as I was still caught up in the post-rains house cleanup and organising efforts. I walked up Mohammad Ali Rd in the late-afternoon-almost-evening time of the day when the sun is so low in the sky its rays  no longer light even the tops of the tallest buildings. Parked on the side of the road was Mohammad Mustaqeen Khan. He has been driving taxi for about 24 years. He came to Bombay from UP, a strong 20 year old man from a village, and started out in haath gadi at Do Tanki in Chor Bazaar area.  Twenty-six years later he has bought more land, rebuilt his home, married off 4 children, all from driving taxi. We talk about street level economics, how much he used to make and what it bought, how much he makes now and what it buys. Click on ‘mohammad khan podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (25 min 8 sec)

mohammad khan podcast

mohammad khan: panch chhe rupiya mein kitna khasakta tha

Tur dal is Rs115/kilo. Tomater is Rs40/kilo. kanda/piyaz/onion are Rs18/kilo. one small bunch of kothmir/dhaniya is Rs5. Bhindi is Rs80/kilo. a kela/banana is Rs2. So what if cell phone rates have gone down and SMS is cheaper. What are people eating? How are people eating. We used to think of dal/roti as a staple, a fall back, the food of the masses. Or a roti and an onion. The only way to make dal now to keep within a budget is half the dal and double the pani. I was at MTNL the other day and the woman there told me she has stopped having people come home.  In the outtake below Mohammad Khan talks about mangai. (28 sec)

outtake mangai tur ka dal

We went up Ambedkar Rd, over the Byculla Bridge, out Saat Raasta to Moses Rd. You hear me tell him to take Tulsi Pipe. Its a good view and I want to track the changes in the skyline, the ‘progress’ of the buildings emerging from where Jupiter and Elphistone Mills used to be. Below are photos of Ambedkar Rd, just before the Byculla Bridge.

My father always taught me economics by asking how long it takes to earn my do roti. What Mohammad Khan is saying is that he used to eat for 5-6 rupees what today costs Rs 30-35. He earns at the end of the day almost three times as much as he did when he started driving taxi but his costs have gone up much more. If in 10 hours he earned 80 rupees it took him about 40 minutes to earn dinner. If in 10 hours he now earns 250 rupees, its taking him an hour and about 10 minutes to earn dinner. And I didn’t ask him about room rent.

We started talking about 26/11 but the conversation quickly turned to driving a private vehicle. He drove for a man from his village that does bhangaar and has an Ambassador. He was paid Rs600/mo. This is the same amount the Sevalal earns driving a Honda City for the wife of the couple that live in the luxury highrise.  (1 min 15 sec)

outtake driving private

There was an article in DNA with the headline ‘Mumbai Taxis May Soon Turn Yellow’. You can read it here. I haven’t read about it anywhere else but according to the article, the state transport minister Vikhe-Patil announced at a taxi man’s union meeting that he wanted the kaali-peeli taxis to have a make-over, to match this new imaginary city. As he put it, “With the changing skyline of the city and with the introduction of the metro and the monorail, the taxis should also don a new look.” I put that at about the same level of governance and economic upliftment as I do the renaming of the airports. Thinking outside the colour scheme or at least half of it. The taxi union has agreed if the city pays for it..’incentives for the expenditure to be incurred’. Least they could do after not giving any incentives on the expenditures incurred on the new vehicles for cancelled fiats.

More on our city. We decided to take SV Rd instead of Reclamation to avoid that massive jam at Lilavati that happens every evening now that the Sealink traffic empties at high speeds onto that road and impatient drivers commandeer the opposite side of the road, thus backing up traffic in that direction and turning the Lilavati  junction to gridlock.. SV Rd of course isn’t better  and is further exacerbated by the skywalk being built down the middle of the street. He is more hopeful than I am. (18 sec)

outtake bandra west skywalk

I am hopeful too. I love this city.

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 23 mahadev singh

Posted in bombay, hindi, migration, podcast, taxi, taxi story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 1, November 2009 by meterdown

Kala Ghoda. The rains had disappeared. Eid had been celebrated. Dusserah also. There was a taxi and in it Mahadev Singh. When he left Jharkhand 20 years ago as a 20-year old youth, it was Bihar he left. He came with friends who were cooks in homes on Malabar Hill. He didn’t like cooking. He has been driving a taxi for 10 years. This is his story. Click on ‘mahadev singh podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (26 min 21 sec)

mahadev singh podcast

mahadev singh

mahadev singh: idhar aye ek baar toh phir idhar se jaane ke dil nahin karta

What I heard, what came through, was the ambivalence experienced in the midst of change. A change to taxi driving, a city changing around him. Passengers picked the new vehicles to ride in. No one wants to ride in a fiat anymore. But as we spoke about the fiats, they became the desired, they have room for legs, room for luggage. Poised on the point of change, teetering between what was and what is becoming, what will be lost and what is being gained, Mahadev Singh spoke from both sides. We can contain these feelings, the simultaneous good and the simultaneous bad.

road in front of mantralaya1 road in front of mantralaya2 road in front of mantralaya3

I spoke to my first Meru driver. It was his 4th day driving. He was an older man who had driven kaali-peeli all his life. He owned three taxis that he rents out. He said he wanted to see what it was like to drive this fleet taxi. But he didn’t hold much stock in it. He was going to give it a month test. He liked the A/C but he thought in the end he could make as much money driving less hours in his own taxi. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal about kaali-peeli drivers attacking Meru drivers because of the competition and loss of business. Though I have never heard about it, I guess it has happened. Man does bite dog sometimes. But I have asked every driver about Meru and have never heard any hostility. They seem to feel that there are enough fares for everyone, that enough people won’t pay extra, or can’t pay extra for the comfort of A/C or the convenience of electronic meters.  I admit though, I haven’t asked the Meru drivers their side of the story.

calendar and text ceiling cloth nimbu mircha side medallion

Mahadev Singh lives in a flat, in Mahalakshmi, with running water and a bathroom . The rent is Rs3000/mo which is the price of the maintenance the owners have to pay. This is a flat in a new building erected on the site of demolished jopad-patti and his landlords are rehabilitated jopad-patti dwellers. I have another friend who lived in a run down broken room in a rundown broken building that got torn down by a builder and from that she was given a nice flat with a kitchen and a bathroom in a nice building full of supportive rehabilitated neighbors at a maintenance she can afford. These stories aren’t all bad. But there aren’t enough good ones. More people don’t get flats or though the flat are free, the maintenance is too high to afford or the flats are too far away to make it to work or they get trundled off to transit camps from where they never leave or they can’t prove they are eligible for a new flat, they can’t prove they exist. Lately Dharavi redevelopment land grab has been in the new daily here, here and here for instance.

mahadev sign smiling

This is the only outtake. Because traffic was light, because we took the sealink, the raw audio was much shorter than usual. I cut this out of the podcast mostly because it came at the end, and the ending is too abrupt. Nothing lingers. I knew the answer to this question, which is why I asked it. Patrilocality. The daughter leaves her home and belongs to another family elsewhere.  How can you give you daughter her inheritance of your land if she belongs to another family somewhere else? In its stead is dahej, rakhi, maamera/maayra/naanero, these cultural strategies for passing inheritance to daughters but end up devaluing their births. (34 sec)

outtake inheritance

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My friend Kannu wants to put his son, Divesh, in a boarding school like Mahadev Singh has done with his son. Kannu lives in Bombay and makes his money as a maharaj, cooking for various families. His village is 45 kms from Udaipur on the Chittorgarh-Udaipur road. He himself is an 8th class fail. He says boy children are too difficult to discipline and the women in the household anyway are too busy. I think about all the fathers in distant cities and wonder about this migration where men leave their families and spend decades away earning the money that farming no longer provides.

taxi side taxi back streamer taxi leaving

I think Mahadev Singh is right about the sealink. Rs30 is just about the right price where people would take it instead of inching along and jockeying for position amidst the pollution and honking in the Cadell Rd/LJ Rd traffic. Rs50 is just over that amount that most people will pay. People who have cars that is, people who are used to paying for petrol. I have only taken the sealink in taxis to augment this blog with more photos and videos and scenes of Bombay from out in the water, the city from a distance.

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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 22 vijay kumar

Posted in bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi, taxi story, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 25, August 2009 by meterdown

I was wandering August Kranti Maidan on a day that teetered on the edge of downpour – clouds massing above and the heat pressing down, heavy with the weight of humidity. A nicely decorated fiat taxi was parked on the side of the road, facing toward Kemps Corner. It was Vijay Kumar’s, Vijay Kumar Srivastava’s, born in Bombay from UP migrants.  This podcast is a Bombay story told by a Class 3 drop-out who has poured his sweat into the labouring jobs that build this city and keep it vital. He calls Bombay home but he doesn’t see his place in the future city. Click on ‘vijay kumar podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (24 min 35 sec)

vijay kumar podcast

vijay kumar

vijay kumar: garib adami ko chahiye ke apna haq kissi ko nahin deve

Vijay Kumar’s Bombay story continues. Here he talks about 1992-1993. He slept on the footpaths at Worli because the room his parents lived in was too small for all of them. What he says is what I often hear, that it was the manipulations of the politicians, that it was garib log who lost their life’s work, that the city became more visibly disjoined as Muslims moved together for safety, that his social orbit is eroded by what happened. The sound quality of this outtake is a bit bad at the beginning. It’s the wind blowing into the recorder. But later in the outtake, when the wind noise stops, you can hear the rain. (2 min 11 sec)

outtake_1992_1993

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Vijay Kumar tells us that he is from Bombay and tells us why Bombay and why not UP. And then he brings up Raj Thackarey and the lafda. And recites to us all his Bombay based documentation and that he speaks perfect Marathi and so he says, he should be OK. It is as if he has internalised a checklist of authenticity, imposed from an outside source, that since he thinks he fulfills it, his inner sense of home and belonging to our city is safe. Safe in the sense that if this lafda starts again, he won’t have to leave. But the anxiety is there, voiced in the recitation of the checklist, in the need to justify his claim of belonging.

I was not born in Bombay. I do not speak Marathi. Bombay is my home. There is no dissonance in these sentences.

Everyone is used to a bit of corruption. Usually it is tolerated if what one pays for gets done. Less so if it is already within the realm of the day-to-day duties. Such as paying for have one’s papers processed faster is OK, but paying just to have them processed is not OK. Any everyone ‘knows’ that politicians are corrupt and eat our money, but if they also deliver, this too is borne. But how much is too much stealing? Vijay Kumar draws his line. (26 sec)

outtake_stealing_too_much

vijay kumar in rear viewvijak kumar rear view me clicking

Vijay Kumar sees a future city in which he has no place. Sion and Bandra will be joined – the Dharavi reclamation project – the cleaving together with BKC – and folded into Bombay which will inhabited by only an upper class of people. There will be Malls, shiny new taxis, big flat complexes. There will not be thelawalas, jopadi, or much of an informal sector, which is the hustle and rozi-roti for poorer people. The work, the work that demands labour, will be done by a class of people living outside of Bombay city, who will travel in and then travel back out. Looking at the Virar fast at 6:30pm, with people hanging from the footboards, the windows, the top, we are almost there. I would have thought he had also internalised the floating discourse of a Bombay imaginary or maybe he had accepted with the cold strands of logic, a reality bearing down on him. But then he says – garib adami ko chahiye ke apni haq kissi ko nahin deve. Which haq is that? To live in our city? Yeh hai apni haq.

The outtake below is his philosophy on work and some stories from his private life. (2 min 53 sec)

outtake_work_philosophy

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We turned right at Kemps Corner onto Peddar Rd and drove past Haji Ali. At the next signal, right after National Sports Club, the signal that you can turn right into for the back galli into Nehru Centre, the car next to us asked for directions. Listen to this outtake and you tell me, where exactly did he mean to turn right to get to where they were going? Pooch pooch ka jana.

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vijay kumar in taxi2ganapati fan and hanumandohickydesign

Below is a point&shoot video of the flashing heart, of Vijay Kumar and my dog Josh, barking in the background.

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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