Archive for taximans union

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 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 20 seva lal revisited

Posted in bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi, taxi story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 11, June 2009 by meterdown

My cellphone rang, showing Seva Lal’s name in the screen. He wanted to know if I knew of any jobs and to give me the news that he was no longer driving his kaali-peeli taxi. It had been cancelled because it was 25 years old and he didn’t have the money to take up a loan, a loan that Rafiq called ‘taxi ki atyachar’. Seva Lal is episode 4, the 4th driver on this blog, the 4th podcast. You can see his taxi and hear his story from September 2007 here. His news made me sad, and even sadder, I don’t know of any jobs. Driver jobs that pay enough to support a family. The impending cancellation of the taxis has been a topic that has run through each and every conversation starting with Hari Lal Yadav, the first driver. And now they are being cancelled and the story continues but now it speaks of how this is being experienced, the weight of a loan, the loss of a livelihood. This is Seva Lal’s story. Click on ‘seva lal revisited podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (19 min 19 sec)

seva lal revisted podcast

seva lal revisited

seva lal: kwaihish rekhna aur pura karna do alag-alag cheez

People hire drivers, often to take them to and from their offices where they get salaries that have benefits, one of which is paid leave. Another is paid sick leave. Yet, how often is that benefit passed on to the drivers who drive them there, or the cook that feeds them or the bai who keeps the house clean? (1 min 37 sec)

outake paid leave

sethani ka ghar sethani ka ghar2

lane to seva lals room

We met on the streets of Lower Parel, I waiting in front of Globe Mill Passage BMC school until he came to fetch me. We wanted to find a quiet place, a shady place to talk. None of the high office buildings around there would let us sit inside their compounds on a bench under a tree. We ended up back in a taxi, his saggeewala’s,  parked on the street in a line of taxis where Seva Lal used to park his taxi before it was cancelled.

seva lal and taxi line

As with Jamid Ali, we already knew each other so in the place of discovery was a continuing story. The taxi wasn’t moving through the city, he didn’t have to concentrate on driving, we were facing each other in the front seat. All of this alters the rhythm of what is being asked and what is being said. I think the story here is different. Its not only the taxi. It is what happens after taxis get cancelled and the tenuous and shrinking spaces of livelihood. Seva Lal has gone from an autonomous job, an independent owner with a degree of control over any transaction, over his workday, to being an informal employee, a hired servant of someone else and at a 40% drop in earnings. It isn’t the cancellation or the new vehicles, though it is in a way. Why aren’t 25 year old private cars being taken off the road? There must be a way that the burdens of change aren’t disproportionately borne by those who are least equipped to grapple with them.

seva lal and passerby sevalal phone seva lal3

Seva Lal’s daughter was getting married and he was soon leaving for UP. I asked about the jamai, wondering if he would also be coming to Bombay to make his rozi-roti. and hopefully be closer to her family. UP is so far away when its your daughter leaving your home. (1 min 55 sec)

outtake ladki and jamai

Below is a video from my point-and-shoot (which has a spot on the lens I think) where Seva Lal shows us his sethani ka ghar, the taxi line where he parked his taxi, his street and the lane to his room, next to the mandir.

In the first conversation with Seva Lal, he spoke about marriage and why his is successful. It touched me then and it has always stayed with me. I wanted to ask him what he had told his children, especially as the marriage of his daughter approaches.(2 min 7 sec)

outtake successful marriage

bombay today…….

new taxi passenger

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 19 rafiq

Posted in bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi, taxi story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20, April 2009 by meterdown

I was in Fort at the Paper Mart on Cawasji Patel St. buying printer ink, which meant I went to Yazdani for chai and brun-maska which meant I went to Strand.  It was late afternoon, just before the office goers spring free and the taxis were lined up along DN Rd. I saw an Omni kaali-peeli taxi parked in the line of waiting taxis along the curb, a driver gazing out.  It was Rafiq and he has lived in in Jijamata Nagar, Worli his whole life. His taxi had been cancelled because it was 25 years old. He has had this new one for a month. He says it is more comfortable to drive and he doesn’t get as tired but he describes the loan as atyachar, taxi ka atyachar, and Bombay as a confuse nagari. Click on ‘rafiq podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download. (26 min 15 sec)

rafiq podcast


rafiq: chelti jab tak chelana ka. ankh band hogaya tho anari

I apologise for the sound quality. I had forgotten to set the mic sense to uni-directional so I’ve picked up all the ambient sound in full. Plus, the back seat of the Omni is so far back, I had to sit on the hump on the floor behind the front seats and stick my arm through the opening between the driver and passenger seats. I kept sliding off the hump and my arm kept getting lower and lower as I got tired of holding it up. Though it did help create an intimacy in the shared hardship, I prefer the fiat, and the unbroken backseat to hang over.

inside meter taxi-inside-back-seat

More and more new kaali-peeli taxis catch the eye, moving through the montage of Bombay streets. The kaali-peeli blends into the known but the shape, the size, that difference, registers. The cityscape will slowly change as each month, each year, a few more new taxis appear in small increments within the total. Visually measuring the difference is like visually measuring the growth of a tree, until one day you realise the tree is big and there are no more fiats on the road. But the atyachar continues for the drivers. (57 sec)

outtake aur atyachar kya hai

New vehicle sightings:

aniket omni fiat meru

maruti taxi cng maruti in traffic

Worli. Kalbadevi. Bombay Central. Mahim. I think if I were ever gone from here, hearing the names of the city spaces would make me teary. Nostalgia for that which I haven’t left, yearning for where I already am. In this outtake Rafiq tells me where today’s dhandha has taken him. Mapping the city in the naming of places, reciting Bombay. (1 min 48 sec)

outtake aaj ka dhandha

vt and fiat2

Rafiq must pay Rs. 5,000/mo to the bank or they tow away his livelihood. That is Rs 2,500 for interest and Rs 2,500 on the capital. Or they tow away his livelihood.  He can’t be more than 2 weeks late on the payment. Or they tow away his livelihood. He can’t go home until he has earned Rs. 700. And yet he keeps his children in fee-based English medium schools. And postpones the day he can stop renting and buy his own room in Nallasopara until he pays of his loan. In 5 years. 60 weeks. I asked him about his day off. (52 sec)

outtake no chutti

rafiq in sideview

Rafiq is an SSC pass. Maybe 17 years ago, an SSC pass could hope to get a job. He hoped, but no job. For two months after his old fiat was cancelled, he was anari, doing a bit of refrigerator work, working contract at Jet Airways for Rs 5,000/mo. I asked him if he ever considered becoming a Meru Taxi driver, riding around in AC. From his answers, I wonder who they do find to drive for them. (1 min 19 sec)

outtake meru ka naukri

rafiq in taxi rafiq taxi side view

taxi front taxi back

Rafiq had many stories, especially about taking people in emergencies to hospitals. The Navi Nagar story is a favourite. But underlying it is the story of the service that taxi drivers do for us, rickshaw drivers do for us, that in our expectations, our  class bias perhaps, or in our panic, we might not notice. The family didn’t have the neighbors help carry the woman down to the taxi. They yelled down 9 stories – hey taxiwala bhaiya, give us a hand. The Kamathipura story is also a hospital story. The third story is about returning things left in the taxi. Rafiq says of all these things, upaarwala barkat se achha.

outtake navynagar story (55 sec)

outtake kamathipura story (32 sec)

outtake returning samaan left in taxi (2 min 1 sec)

The litte beeps you hear in the podcast? Its the electronic meter. Each new vehicle has an electronic meter that shows the actual amount you have to pay. No more 13x multipliers. No more fare cards. No more reaching out the passenger side window to rotate the meter down, or up. And no more photos of decorated meters. Plus an added feature. In the front of the taxi, facing the street is will be a red light that shines if the taxi is available, the virtual meter up. (or is it the other way?)

meter and radio meter indicator front

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 18 kadeer

Posted in bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi, taxi story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 4, March 2009 by meterdown

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 podcast


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)

outtake sealink & lovers lane

sealink from hinduja almost 3 years ago

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)

outtake gandi baat

kadeer5 kadeer4

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)

outtake middle class neend ki goli slumdog


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)

outtake housie

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?

crawford market crawford market3

crawford market2 street scene

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)

outtake discovery channel

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)

outtake 26 july flood

meter and tiger

meter3 meter2

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)

outtake union and loan

front close front

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

episode 16 sebastian fernandes

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

It was not long after the attacks here in Bombay. The streets were full again, people rejoining their dailiness but not in the same way. Every day an event, an action, a gesture, that flowed in response to the attacks. On TV, in print, on the street there are noises of darkness; war, retaliation, chants signifying a venomous nationalism, a willingness to abrogate democratic liberties in an apprehensive and erroneous belief that this has something to do with prevention or even safety.  And here is Sebi Fernandes in his taxi, talking of aam aadami, watching the television and how ‘feeling hogaya, dukh hogaya’ for the people, and his niece who works in housekeeping in the Oberoi, trapped and hiding over night there, caught in the firing, and his mistrust of the officially reported numbers of dead.  Nothing will be solved by war he says, only it is the common man that dies. Jang nahin. Aman chahiye. Click on ‘sebastian fernandes podcast’ link below to stream or right click to download or click on feed in column on right side. (26 min 5 sec)

sebastian fernandes podcast

sebi fernandessebi fernandes: aam aadami aur mat girao

In the podcast audio, Sebi tells is a wonderful story about an ‘up-to-date’ young woman who gets in at Mahim and on the way to Colaba has him stop at Heera Panna so she can quickly buy something. She disappears and never comes back. He says that he thought she was educated but now he thinks she was just a fraudster. “What is this attitude that she isn’t educated because she was doing fraud” a very close friend asked. My friend is right of course. I wish I had asked Sebi something about that. His answer might have been interesting, especially because he believes that governments lie and cheat and fraud. But then maybe educated means something else to him, something that isn’t conferred with a degree. In the outtake below, Sebi tells another story but this time it is of a robbery, with a revolver, in broad daylight. He seems more surprised by the fraudulent woman than the gun-toting men. Are you? (3 min 52 sec)

outtake dharavi revolver

mulund mulund-backwards

Sebi grew up in a family of 10 children, poor, the son of a mill worker who gambled away his earnings. He is a Bombay-born, hard-working man in a city without enough housing that is a siren calling out to everyone the possibilities of opportunity. He says in the podcast audio that Bombay is a city unkind, but not fatal, to the poor. Yet in this outtake, he talks about ‘those people’, the ones who live on the footpaths, who have too many children, who drink too much, who beg for a living instead of working. These representations seem to hover over our city, voiced in all areas, 1 BHKs in Parel, in 2 BHKs in Vesova, in 3 BHKs in Chembur, bungalows in Juhu, luxury apartments atop Malabar Hill, and, yes, in the 1 room chawl of a taxi driver in Dadar West. Perhaps it makes it easier to live amidst the very marginalised, the barely making it, and go about our lives. (4 min 1 sec)

outtake footpath

sebi-fernandes3 sebi-fernandes2

There is a taxi badge that every driver must have to drive taxi. Then there is the taxi permit that allows the taxi to be on the road. Permits are valuable. Without one, the taxi can’t ply. There is much jugaad around permits with the new Meru taxis. What I have never understood is whether the permit is with a person, or the permit is with the vehicle. In this outtake Sebi explains permits. (47 sec)

outtake taxi permits

meterdown meterup super meter

The taxis over 25 years old are being taken off the road in the next coming months. I keep hearing differing totals. Some say 11,000, some say 8,000, others quote numbers in this range. Each taxi has at least one driver and many have two drivers. That is a large number of drivers without a taxi to drive, without a job. I read an article in today’s paper about this. Not of course from the point-of-view of the drivers, but from the point-of-view of – isn’t it wonderful this progression into a model modern city. The headline caught by eye. It talked about polluting taxis being forced off the road for the betterment of our environment. How dishonest. Two years ago, or perhaps its three now, all the taxis were made to convert to CNG. At a cost to the owners for which many took out loans. Taxis aren’t polluting our city, whether they are 25 years old, or the last model to roll off the Fiat production lines in 1994. In this outtake, Sebi talks about the cancellation of taxis, and what it means for the drivers, of which by he way, he isnt one. (38 sec)

outtake taxi cancel

radio license key

The cancellation of taxis, the appearance of fleet taxis, the everyday problems of working and the conflicts that are born from interaction with the public while being a service and being a business. Unions are supposed to protect us, to serve us and to negotiate in our name with whomever are the powers that be. I always ask the drivers if they are in a union, the whys and why nots and the benefits or not. In New York City, where many of the drivers are South Asian, there is a very strong, very progressive taxi union conceived and headed by an India-born woman named Bhairavi Desai (more here). There is a book about her and the union titled Taxi!: Cabs and Capitalism in New York City by Biju Mathew. I recommend it. So far, most of the drivers in Bombay have not given the unions very high marks. Sebi has thrown away his life time membership card in Nav Jivan, and here he explains why. (3 min 21 sec)

outtake union card phenkdiya

sebi fernandes in taxi

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 14 arvind kumar rai

Posted in bombay, hindi, podcast, taxi with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 11, September 2008 by meterdown

Out of the warrens of Mangaldas market and into Badshah’s for a falooda. (Shalimar’s are better) A line of taxis. Arvind Kumar Rai slouching against his door, checking his cell phone.  He is a HSC science graduate from UP. How many drivers have said they want to educate their sons so they won’t have to be taxi drivers. But Arvind likes the freedom of danda. Bosses think they own you he says and he earns more in the taxi than the naukris on offer. It was a hot humid heavy day of disappeared rains, the trough between massing storm clouds when there isn’t quite sun and there isn’t quite shadow and the light has a peculiar pewter cast. Second day of Ramzan and the day before Ganapati.  Byculla he asks and up Mohammad Ali-Ambedkar Rds, over Currey Rd Station bridge and around to Tulsi Pipe.  In the middle of the podcast where you hear him say “Madam thoda ek minute ruksakta, na?”, he is showing me his raised little finger.  We stopped at the shauchalaya at Lower Parel. Click on link below to stream or right click to download. (22 min 34 sec)

arvind kumar rai podcast

arvind kumar rai: hai ke ni

We see people on the streets, on the trains, in buses, in the markets. All around us are dwellings. Which ones are theirs? Where do the taxi drivers go home to after we hear their story?  Though this outtake is named room, its more about pani and mornings and divisions of labour. (1 min 9 sec)

outtake room

10 hours a day x six days a week driving in Bombay traffic, talking (or not) to the strangers in the back seat.  Then comes chutti ka din. This is what Arvind does on his day off. (48 sec)

outtake chutti

Below are photos of Arvind going to the shauchalaya and coming back. Its on Sayani Marg, that road that when you want Tulsi Pipe but are coming up NM Joshi and can’t go straight onto Tulsi Pipe, you turn right onto it and then left from it and you are sitting at Elphistone signal on Tulsi Pipe.

As part of the narrative to turn Bombay into a world-class city, our netas and babus have visited Singapore and Shanghai and other cities that model this imaginary. From the first driver, Hari Lal Yadav, up to now with Arvind, we have been hearing anxiety of impending cancel of the kaali-peeli fiats. First it was any vehicle over 15 years old. When I recently met Junaid to give him his DVD and photos, he told me at the meeting of Taximans Union (Nav Jivan), Quadros had announced the decision that any vehicle older than 25 years old will be cancelled and off the road during next next 12 months. This will take minimum 8,000 or 20% of kaali-peeli taxis off the road. 8,000 to 16,000 drivers. What will they do and where will they go?

under the hood

In this outtake, Arvind talks about why he joined Nav Jivan Taximan’s Union, and what he thinks now. (1 min 14 sec)

outtake union

These days, Raj Thackeray and his MNS goons have been taking on store owners and traders, insisting on signage in Marathi. मीतर डाअन  Is that Marathi? I say its Hindi. Thackeray is also taking on the Bachchans and Shah Rukh Khan. But what about when he was creating havoc with the taxi drivers? Arvind talks about that time which may not have passed. (1 min 13 sec)

outtake raj thackeray

Always on the road in this traffic. I am impressed at how many of these drivers have not had accidents. Arvind is not one of them. (1 min 42 sec)

outtake accident

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