I had gone to drop A off at the Sealdah Station. After his train left, I made my way to the taxi stand through a long snaking line of taxis. Usually there is a sizeable crowd in the taxi stand but yesterday evening Sealdah itself was curiously un crowded. A young chap sat on a stool at the begining of the line, next to the first taxi. There was just one more passenger who was haggling about something.
The chap on the stool asked me where I wanted to go and I told him.
He handed me two slips and said Four Rupees please and pointed me to the next taxi. Something didn't quite seem right. I have never seen a taxi stand where one had to buy slips of paper except the Pre-paid stand where one had to pay the entire fare ahead.
What is this for? Some sort of a taxi stand fee or something?
No. No. (with a loud laugh which had everyone turning to look at us). We are collecting money for the Vishwakarma puja.
What? You never told me. I thought it was some sort of a pre-paid taxi fee.
Well you can take back your four rupees if you don't want to give it.
I felt like such a fool. I had actually gone to him and asked him "how much", after all he was just sitting there. And four rupees is not all that much to make a hoo-haa about. (It was just the principle of it but somehow making one's point is easier if the sum involved is larger). Oof the embarrassment. I gnashed my teeth silently (not vocally) since the cab driver had been witness to the entire thing!
Now that I think about it, I can't help admiring the smooth cool way they had devised to collect funds for the puja - perhaps for the taxi stand. And he was not asking for a lot, just 4 paltry rupees!