As Konkan Kanya pulls to a stop on one of the Central Line tracks at the crack of dawn, I lug my heavy suitcase out and curse myself for packing so much.
The thought of staggering with the weight, up the stairs to the walkway, across it to the Western side, down the stairs and into another train is exhausting.
“Who is this?” I ask.
“Old passenger. I need to give him change.”
“So get him change from one of the shops. I will not let the cab
leave with this man sitting here.”
They look at each other. And then one of them asks me “Do you have change for Rs. 1000?”
I knew for a fact, beyond any doubt, that I had only Rs. 500 notes in my purse. The smaller notes were in my pocket and stuffed into various bag
I open the purse and give him two notes of Rs. 500 each and he hands me the Rs. 1000.
Before getting out, the man in the passenger seat says “Madam, you have given me one 500 note and one 100. See?” He shows me the notes and hands me back the 100.
I knew then, that something didn’t feel right. I had only 500 notes in my purse... didn’t I?
Maybe I didn’t.
I take the 100, and give him a 500 note. He leaves.
The driver fidgeted for a while. Irritated, I asked, “Now what?”
“We need to fill petrol. It will take 20 minutes” he said.
Argh! I needed to go home, and come all the way back to Dadar in two hours to get to work. I didn’t have 20 minutes to spare. And the prospect of taking a 15 minute catnap at home seemed to be slipping away.
So I take my bags
, get out, and look for another taxi
The episode was forgotten.
SIX MONTHS LATER
There I was again, getting off the 5 am train with a ginormous bag
, cursing myself. Some things never change.
It was a different turbaned man. However, the events that unfolded thereafter were identical. This time, I was better prepared.
“Old passenger.” He said. “Do you have change?”
“Madam pliss check.”
“Nope. No change."
Passenger gets out. The driver? He needs to fill petrol again
. He courteously tells me in Hindi
, “this will take time, and you will be delayed, You can get a taxi down the road. Just a five minute walk!”
I was furious, but it was dark
, and there were not many people this time around. Using my better judgement, I left and got another taxi. The entire ride home, I Googled.and what I found wasn’t surprising anymore.
Page after page of cheated people had shared their experiences. What was worse were the comments from foreign tourists who had already formed their first impression of Mumbai
and India because of one cheating taxi driver.
pulled up at the building and I asked the man at the wheel, “There’s something wrong with the taxis in that lane, isn’t there?”
He laughed and said “Those cars never leave that lane. They never take passengers. Their business
is that of switching notes.”
P.S. While many of the reviews on Google date back to 2008, I still find a few from as recent as Sept 2015 on Twitter. Maybe the police have a hand in the matter (Indian police.. who knows?) or maybe the drivers are just plain shameless. All I can do is tell you about it.. and hope that you tell someone else.