A meaningful Eid

Eid Mubarak.” He wished us when we got out of his cab. We too wished him the same.

Mumbai is divided into two- the city and the suburb. It is very easy to identify the city and the suburb. The basic difference is that auto-rickshaws are only allowed in the suburbs and not in the city. In the central line of Mumbai, you can take an auto-rickshaw till Sion and in the western line till Bandra. Beyond that only taxis are allowed. There is a huge difference in the fare of taxis and auto-rickshaws too. Taxi fares are almost double that of the auto-rickshaws. Only being in the suburbs of Mumbai can anyone enjoy the luxury of auto-rickshaws. In the city either one takes the BEST buses or walk. Taxis are just an extension of luxury unlike auto-rickshaws in the suburbs.

I had been to the University of Mumbai which is in the city for completing certain documentary work with regards to the college affiliation. My friend too was with me. The work took longer than expected and we were tired. We had to return to the college in the suburb and complete certain pending work too. My college was in Andheri, which is in the western suburb. Though on official duty we were only allotted conveyance amount equivalent to the train journey. But we were tired. So, we decided to catch a cab.

We looked at each other. Cab! Till our college in Andheri!!! That too paying from our own pocket! We were teachers; such a luxury was forbidden. Still ..dil hain ki manta nahin….Both of us checked our pockets and calculated how much money we carried. We had enough money for a luxury drive till the suburbs from the city. But my friend suggested, “We will take a taxi till Bandra flyover. After that we will catch an auto. So we will save some money.” “What an idea, Sirji! You are a pucca Accounts professor.” He giggled and we were proud that we practiced economics while trying to fulfill a want. After all wasting money on a taxi when we can cover the same distance in train was not good; but the trouble of travelling in the train during peak hours scared us.

Auto-rickshaws from western suburbs are allowed till Bandra flyover only; beyond that only taxis in the city. So returning from the city we decided to disembark from our taxi at Bandra and carry forward our journey by auto. “Taxi,” I signaled my hand to one that was passing by. A dark-skinned elderly bearded driver with a skull cap stopped near us. He greeted us, “Salaam, kaha jana hain? (where do you want to go)” We greeted him back and replied, “Bandra flyover.” He looked at us from top to bottom and asked, “After that are you going to take an auto?” We never thought that he will expose our travel money saving patented economic theory so soon!!! We went into defensive and said, “No no..” He smiled and turned the taxi meter and asked us to sit. We were still in a state of shock to know how a taxi driver could understand psychology so well. The moment we got in he said, “You pay taxi charges till Bandra flyover; from there I will charge only auto charges till your destination. I will also get some money in the process.” He completely floored us. His offer was too good to resist. We showed some tantrums but agreed. We were happy to agree. It was an excellent offer. As he started driving, he switched on the audio inside the taxi and blared the melodies of Kishor Kumar. It was like a scoop of extra ice-cream in a fruit salad. He turned to us and said, “I am a big fan of Kishor Kumar. Hope you like his songs. I have a good collection of songs. In case you want any other singer, I will change it.” We were fully enjoying his hospitality. He started winning our hearts. I started wondering, “Such a good person! Why should we not pay him the full taxi fare till our destination rather than only auto fare after Bandra flyover?

He started asking about us and our job. He spoke about the increasing prices and how difficult it is to run a taxi in Mumbai now. Increased traffic on the roads, the trouble caused by corrupt police officials and apathy of the general public towards taxi was killing their business. He then looked at us and asked, “Would you like to have water? I have a flask that keeps water cold even in this hot weather.” He pulled out the cylindrical flask from near the seat and gave it to us. We did not know whether to accept or refuse. But we were thirsty and nothing like cold water! We accepted it and quenched our thirst. He floored us again by his hospitality. He then increased the volume of the audio and Kishor Kumar melodies swept us off. We reached Bandra flyover. Auto rickshaws were lined up there. He turned to us and said, “Please check the meter. Note the kilometers. From here I will charge only the auto fare.”

After enjoying his hospitality till now we had been completely floored. We did not have the courage to break his heart. In one voice we said, “No..no…you continue. We will pay you the regular taxi fare.” A taxi driver cut across and shredded our travel money saving patented economic theory. His hospitality and mannerisms proved fatal for our pocket. We were mesmerized to say YES by his humbleness and pleasantries. Our accounting budgeting was worth a throw in the dustbin. The journey continued and we reached our college. He checked the taxi meter and told us, “Rs. 280 is the taxi fare but what we agreed initially it will be Rs. 120 taxi fare till Bandra and auto fare after that Rs. 60. So the total will be Rs. 180.” Both of us dug into our pockets and took out the money. Finally, we both handed Rs. 280 to him; the full taxi fare. He smiled and accepted the money. Adjusting his skull cap, he said, “Bhai tomorrow is Eid. This is my last trip today. Thank you for making my Eid memorable. Eid Mubarak to you. May Allah bless you both. Eid Mubarak.”

We too reciprocated the greeting and got down from the cab. On the cab was written Rahim chacha ki shaan which meant the pride of Rahim uncle. Our travel money saving patented economic theory lost to psychology. A common taxi driver demonstrated how mannerisms can win over the toughest psychological battle. He just guided our thought process in the entire journey and in the end left a very pleasant experience. This Eid comes amidst the pandemic and hope it will light the home of many such Rahim chachas all over the world.