Archive for kurla

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 11 lal mohammad khan

Posted in accident, bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi, taxi story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 18, April 2008 by meterdown

This time I picked with a bit of intent. I had been at Kurla Terminus taking photos of the crowds of people arriving in Bombay on the trains after the long trip from the eastern interiors of UP and Bihar. The area was full of taxis and drivers, trying to get passengers. I decided I would come back and talk to a taxi driver that worked out of the terminus. I used to often work the airport when I drove, not going into the lot to wait my turn but instead driving the lane in front of arrival and stealing tired fliers as they searched for the taxi stand in the confusion of the airport or standing by the exit door for the late nights flights. “Taxi?” “Taxi?” “Where you going?” Lal Mohammad Khan always starts from Kurla Terminus. I forgot to ask him why or any questions about things like that. Because when the conversation turned to his wild youth and then HIV/AIDs and nirodhs and safe sex and then kissing in taxis, it took on its own life. Click on link below to stream or right click to download. (20min 24 sec)

lal mohammad khan podcast

lal mohammad khan: bombay aisa saher hai yahaan jo ek time aajaata isko dusri jaga dil nahin lakta

Streets are cleared of hawkers and thela-walas. Markets are moved to Vashi. Streets are cleared again of hawkers and thela-walas. And again. The push to imagined modernity also pushes the people who work on the streets away, elsewhere. This ripples across the skein of working people connected to them in ways that are not visible. The hidden hardships are felt, and in this case, articulated in this outtake. (1 min 33 sec)

outtake taxi-ka-danda

Kurla Terminus, officially Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, is a rail head in the eastern suburbs for trains coming in from the eastern, and southern parts of India. It is relatively newer. It hadn’t been built when Sagir Bhai arrived in Bombay. Back then, those trains terminated at VT.

We took the Eastern Express highway to Sion and then through Dharavi to the road to BKC that connects to the Western Express Highway. Right at the signal there when we turned left to go towards Bandra, we heard the police whistle and the havaldar jumped out and flagged us down. or so we thought. This is the view from the back of the taxi as I waited for him to come back.

Many of the taxis have florescent lights in them. The image in this blog header is a taxi driver in Mahim at night, with the green light shining from his ceiling. Lal Mohammad Khan’s taxi had a blue light inside and a light on the dashboard that shone out the windscreen, flashing and changing colours: red, blue, yellow


to see it in action and to see Lal Mohammad Khan, watch this video. The young boy who comes into the frame is the bhaji thela-wala ka ladka.

Lal Mohammad Khan’s taxi had some nice decoration.

and seat covers………..

Actually, I had a funny experience at Kurla. The first taxi I got into was with two brothers. They were Bombay Maharashtrian. I thought this would be something different and perhaps interesting, the non-immigrant experience. I had explained I would be recording the conversation and they agreed. Strangely, they insisted on showing me the taxi badge and taxi license. And a rate card that turned out to be some local printer job I think. We had already left the terminus and were winding our way through the lanes of Kurla East to reach the Expressway. I told them I would also be taking their photos and also explained how I would use the material and that they would also have a CD, DVD and hard copies of the photos. They were increasingly uneasy. No photos they said. Or, as a compromise, one brother would talk but the photos would be of the other brother. No photos of the taxi. I said lagta hai ki ap log biswas nahin karte hai issi mamla mein and if so, i will be quite happy to get down from the taxi. They pulled over to the side, I paid the Rs 13 and walked back to Kurla Terminus. There was this taxi with green decoration on the back and Lal Mohammad Khan leaning against the driver door. I explained where I was going and what I wanted to do and showed him the recorder. He smiled and said chelo.

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