Till this evening, January 31, 2011, I was under the impression that all taxi drivers only know their driving, how to be rude and nod their head to glory every time I asked, “Pedder Road or Sophia College?” But this evening showed me a different taxi driver. A middle aged man from Uttar Pradesh and proudly called himself a bhayaa.
Well, it was certainly not me who striked the conversation. Two friends and I were in the cab and I was seated besides the driver. He was a tall, well built-middle aged man with a curled mustache. We were stuck discussing some latest Marathi films and all of a sudden the driver, Mishra, asked me a question.
“kya aapko English aathi hai?,” asked Mishra.
I thought it was a weird question because the three of us in the cab conversed only in English, so it was but obvious that we knew English. Nevertheless, I replied, “Haan.”
Then he put me to test, “Mahalakshmi station ka English mein kya spelling hai?”
I very confidently said, “M, A, H, A, L, A, X, M, I.”
He looked at me and laughed and said it’s wrong and said it’s not with the “X” but “KSH”. I was taken aback. I argued with him for a couple of minutes but he was too defensive. He also offered to drive us back to Mahalakshmi station to confirm the same. And mind you, all free of charge!
This was just the first question to mock the so called educated class. Time and again he did ask me if I was educated and I would say yes every time.
He further went on to ask me to spell Chhagan Buhjbal’s name and there I was confused once again. And I say, “C, H, A….” and he looked at me and put up this “what a fool you are” kind of a smile. He continued the spelling and said that it was a double H.
I’ve never felt so humiliated and embarrassed before. The friends I was travelling with were journalists and they dared not opened their mouth. And we made sure our professions were not disclosed at any point. Imagine! Just imagine the shame.
Then he went on to convey that he has three children and to my surprise, all his three children were professors in Universities. But then why was he a taxi driver?
Mishra wanted to do too many things, as he conveyed. But he said, “Everywhere I went for an interview, they asked for a bribe. And I did not want to encourage such a practice.” This was something I did not expect. He continued to say, “The best option before me was to come to Mumbai, and I came here in 1969. I bought a taxi and started driving it. Today, I have three taxies and a car as well.”
I couldn’t believe that this man dropped various so called “high profile” jobs because the officials wanted a bribe. And well, just when I was getting engrossed in all his talks, it was time for me to get off. Till now, we conversed in Hindi, but here came a point when I was confused whether to get off at the signal or after the cab takes a turn. He said, “I think you should get off here. Once I turn there may be a cop there and I may find it difficult to halt the taxi.” All this was pure English and my eyes literally popped out of the socket to this “gentleman’s” talks.
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