Thursday, November 11, 2004

A Comparitive Study of the public transport of a few metro cities in India!

(Despite the ambititious title, this post is a very narrow comparison based on a few interesting experiences of the blogger)!

Kolkata first, but ofcourse: I once shared a cab with a punjabi colleague of mine, a recent import to the city of joy. His directions to the driver, in bengali, had me in splits! I had to explain to him rule No. 1: Most cabbies in Kolkata are bihari and speak hindi. Rest of them are mostly sardarjis who are at ease in either hindi or bengali and then there are a handful of bengali drivers. These last ones are ofcourse the ones who are never going you way. Hail a cab and when he slows down, tell him your destination and he will say that he is going in the exact opposite direction.* Without fail. If he is, then why slow down? But slow down they do. Once a cabbie slowed down and when I told him where I wanted to go, he said 'Seat-i nei, aabar jaabey' - No seats and yet she wants to go! Thats when I noticed the seats had been taken out leaving a small bit for the driver and obviously was on its way to a repair shop.

* I don't mean to be sexist when I refer to the cabbie as 'he'. In my 12 years in Kolkata, I have seen only one lady taxi driver - Sharan Kaur who took to driving to support her family after her cabbie husband's untimely death. Incidentally she also runs a flourishing driving school.

Mumbai next: Last month, when I was in Mumbai for a week, I had to extensively travel by cabs. The first thing I noticed was like everything else in Mumbai (at least when compared to Kolkata), how gung-ho the cabbies were. They never tried to cheat me or take me on a long convulated route despite their knowing that I didnt know a thing about the Mumbai roads. They charged the exact fare, one even hailed an auto for me which would be an easier and more economical mode of transport for me given the fact that Ganesh Chaturthi was in full swing with crowds making their way to the sea front for immersion of the various Ganesha idols. I had to take a train from VT which was quite a distance from Juhu, where I had put up, especially given the Ganesh festival. Everyone I asked had a different and equally complicated route for me. A taxi driver solved the problem. He suggested the easiest and shortest route and I reached VT with loads of time to spare. And yet he could have made a packet had he suggested he'd drive me there himself. I would have certainly agreed and would'nt have been any wiser.

But the best part undoubtedly was the way they spoke. 'Sister, tum yer karo, woh karo...', always using the informal 'tum' and never the formal and more correct 'aap' used elsewhere!

At a crossing near Mahim Church, a woman approached me saying she needed money for a kafan (shroud) for someone one recently departed. I ignored her as best as I could since the lowest denomination I had was a Rs. 50/- note. She whined away as I guiltily looked the other way. As our cab pulled away, the driver informed me that this woman runs a racket and only last week she angrily returned a Rs. 50/- note back to a sethani (rich lady) saying it was too little. Phew! And here I was wondering what the cabbie must have been thinking about my easily blowing up money on cabs and none to spare for the needy!!

And now Delhi: The auto drivers here are cheating me left, right and center. And yet I have little option because I am unfamiliar with the roads. Funnily, here in Delhi, where hindi is the preferred language, try saying 'Dahina/Dayan' (right) or Bayan (left) and they get confused.

'Right Kahiye naa' (Say 'Right'), scolded my auto driver when did'nt follow my 'dahina' and we missed a turning and got stuck in a godawful jam.

And lastly, Bangalore: Some years back, when I had gone there, I was cheated by every single auto and cab driver who refused to take me on the normal fare (as told to me by the locals). Exasperated, I let it out on one auto driver who replied in accented english 'Sorry madam, but we gotto make a living, no?! He said it so simply and so charmingly, that I glady paid up!

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