Los Angeles and Mumbai keep being compared because of Hollywood and Bollywood. But there really isn’t much in common. Except that both shut down at 1:20 am and have immigrant cabbies. Theirs are from Moscow and parts of Russia and Germany, ours from UP and Bihar. And taxi drivers are in the thoughts of most partygoers in Mumbai because of the stringent drinking-and-driving laws; also because our not-so-infallible saviours of nightlife have so many quirks when they’re needed the most. But they’re not alone.
I happened to land myself a seat in a limousine for a short journey in LA earlier this week, before taking a few rides with cabbies from Uzbekistan, Moscow and Georgia. “The country,” the last one specified. They all have a lot of s#!t to say, as do our own black and yellow (kaali-peeli) drivers. Some are entertaining, some insightful. Others just make you realise how damn tough limo drivers have it on Saturday nights. Indians, in comparison, are having the time of their life.
Limo: “A customer can complain to my employer if the car smells of smoke. I can’t smoke, neither can the customer. I get pulled up for not doing my job. Except if it’s a movie star. They can smoke, do weed, drink,.”
Kaali-peeli: Cabbie lights a beedi, despite customer’s objections.
Limo: “A customer can get me into trouble if he/she feels I speak rudely.
Customer from Mahim to kaali-peeli: “Bandra?”
Customer from Mahim to kaali-peeli:“Kyun?”
Cabbie: “Nai bola na…”
Customer from Mahim to kaali-peeli:“Arre magar…”
Cabbie: “#$%^#@”. Drives off.
Limo: “I hate working weekends. I have to deal with drunken younglings trying to talk smart. ‘You’re from Russia right? Didn’t your PM have an affair or something?’”
Kaali-peeli: I love working weekends, so I can cheat drunken passengers into paying extra cash with the help of my loyal, rigged meter.
Limo: Customers make it a point to leave a tip.
Kaali-peeli: Cabbies say “Do rupaiya chhutta nahi hai.” “Dus rupaia chutta nahi hai.”
Limo: I cannot refuse a customer.
Any Mumbai customer to kaali-peeli: “Any place in Mumbai”
Cabbie: “Gas nahi, hai, time nahi hai, gaadi deni hai, traffic hai, Santa Cruz tak jayenge, East ja rahe hai. Any excuse.”
It’s frustrating when you’ve walked out of a bar and want to get to the next one without wishing you’d driven. Do call the traffic police helpline (24937755) when a cab refuses to ply. Then wish that the cabbie gets to work as a limo driver in some universe for sure.