- By Deepa Krishnan
The Fiat was battered and old. But it was his sinhasan, and he sat relaxed and easy in it. He was tall and lanky. One arm was wrapped around the window and with the other hand he managed the steering wheel and the gear. I could tell at once that he was an old hand at this.
Many old taxi-wallahs in Mumbai have this relaxed stance...as if they the car is a living breathing thing, an extension of their own bodies. When I looked down at the clutch, I noticed he was driving barefoot.
The Fiat itself was - well - how do I say it - it was the survivor of many surgeries. The long single front seat had been converted to bucket seats. A crazy blue-and-orange-flowery velvet design was plastered all over the car, including the roof. The steering wheel had been grafted on from a Chor Bazaar relic, the horn in the centre of the wheel was a set of exposed wires. The door-handles were barely functional and whole contraption rattled.
But the taxi-wallah was the rajah of his domain. He drove without any stress, no matter what happened. A group of school-girls popped up suddenly in front of us. He braked, and after they passed giggling, he said something philosophical to me about aaj-kal-ke-bacchhe. At the Sion Hospital roundabout as he manouevered the car, I sneaked another photo of him on my mobile phone (OK, I'm sorry, but I did!!!).
I wanted to talk to him, to ask him more about himself. But the ride was too frustratingly short to attempt conversation. Besides, my cellphone kept ringing with something or the other. And so my taxi-ride remained just another big city interaction, just another lost opportunity.