A taxi or two in Bombay (or Mumbai if you must), January 2015

Well, another visit to Bombay is over and done with for the next year. The taxi drivers are quite something, creating an impression whether good or bad. 

A proposed overnight trip on arrival morphed into just a few hours (thanks to an 18 hour flight delay) at the hotel to save spending quite as long waiting at the airport. Went with someone I had met on the flight who had missed his onward connection the previous day so had booked a replacement domestic flight about the same time as mine. 

A prepaid taxi from outside the international arrivals hall, fairly unmemorable, probably more down to tiredness on my part than the journey or the driving. Used the Sealink for 55 rupees, noticed the early morning power walkers along Worli sea face, then spent a few hours at the Four Seasons Hotel, leaving bags in room, sitting by the pool still in travelling clothes, followed by breakfast. 

The hotel called us a meter taxi back to the airport. I think it cost about 340 rupees back to the domestic airport plus the Sealink toll charge. The driver was quite a character and asked if we had heard of The Guardian newspaper, pulling from behind the sun visor a copy of an article from the Guardian Online edition from November 2014 in which he had been interviewed about his life as a Bombay cabby. He spoke quite good English, was a happy chatty soul who was doing his best to offer us trips to all the sights in Bombay notwithstanding we were on our way to catch flights elsewhere. I read the article later and it seemed that he was quite probably the chap in the article, even if he looked older in real life than the 28 years he was said to be in the article. The Guardian is quite famous for copy mistakes! 

Then, 2 weeks later, I was back in Bombay at the domestic airport. The prepaid counter just inside the arrivals hall had a paper bag stuck on the wall with the manuscript legend ‘Lady taxi drivers available’. I have previously used Viira Cabs, a fleet of female drivers, but had got no reply to an email request a few weeks earlier. I asked whether I could book a lady driver to be told that they had not bothered to turn up that day! I paid my money for the taxi to Worli and asked whether there was a seatbelt: cue loads of laughter from the drivers and other hangers on out at the rank. I decided to sit in the front as there was a working passenger seatbelt there. Put my wheelie bag on the back seat. Just as we were about to leave, someone dressed in a security guard uniform who I assumed was security on the taxi rank jumped into the back seat, either hugging or guarding my suitcase throughout. He took off his uniform shirt during the journey so I was not sure whether he had quit life as a taxi rank security operative or whether he just blags a cab home at the end of each of his shifts and changes into mufti en route.

Another taxi soon after arrival to Colaba Causeway. An interesting journey as the traffic was quite busy as everyone was probably heading off to work. Got out at the petrol station just beyond Theobroma Patisserie for the grand sum of 148 rupees on the meter.

After shopping, I was quite impressed to find a choice of meter taxis close to the Taj Hotel, just by Bombay Electric. Perhaps I just look less like a green behind the ears tourist in Bombay than on previous trips. Last year, we were just unable to get a meter taxi in this area. Of course, the driver could not find the hotel  as we approached Worli and I noticed that we had shot right past it and were heading towards the Sealink. I think the situation was remedied by what seemed like a highly illegal u-turn. About 165 rupees on the meter, probably because of the slightly extended route back.

And an evening trip to the Phoenix High Street Mall, the meter cab called by the hotel. Not far at all. 21 rupees on the meter. Possibly the cheapest taxi journey in the city. I upped the fare myself as I was impressed that he had take such a short journey on a meter. No such luck on the way back – the cowboys outside all wanted 200 rupees back to my hotel. I nipped back through the mall and picked up a cab in front of the Palladium Hotel (in fact, their lovely doorman even called it for me), no meter but the doorman agreed 50 rupees with the driver.

And the journey back to the airport was very jolly indeed. The doormen at my hotel put my bags inside the car, showed me that the meter was switched on and started at zero. A youngish driver, said he was Bombay born, married one year, baby due in February, showed me a picture of his wife on his smartphone, said he loved her, phoning her and saying over and over again ‘I love you’,  saying in a mix of English and Hindi that he was driving the madam to the airport and that she was going to London. He asked me if he could get a job as a driver in London. He also said he was going to work in Dubai in the construction industry. When we arrived at the BA drop off area at the international airport, I noticed the meter had been switched off. He played dumb and said it was not working and must have broken on the way. I asked how much and he said I should pay whatever I wanted. I think that the previous meter journey from The Four Seasons to the domestic airport had been about 340-ish rupees on the meter so I said I would pay 350 plus 50 tip. I had a 500 rupee note. He had no change. I said I would get change and a family on their way back to Switzerland kindly changed the 500 rupee note and Mr Switch Off The Meter looked a bit miffed that I had actually managed to get some change! I am not sure who the winner was overall in this one – I expect I got fleeced rather than the other way around. 

Now back in the land of the working taxi meter, the land of the seat belts, the land of the cold . 


One thought on “A taxi or two in Bombay (or Mumbai if you must), January 2015

  1. Baglady, I love the name! Does it, by any chance, imply any kind of fascination for buying bags? From Goa? 🙂

    Insightful narrative, and photos, too. It’s lovely that you observe little things like tractors and cattle on the streets, which I usually ignore, having seen these kind of
    things most of my life. Remarkable pictures of the black-yellow Mumbai (Bombay) taxis, an institution, relics of a previous era, survivors of many cruel monsoons .

    Oh wait, for absolutely incredible taxis that have survived the ravages of several
    decades, and now tied together with string, you must explore Kolkata (Calcutta). Do make sure you get to Kolkata during one of your trips, your trip will be worth it, I assure you.

    Look forward to your impressions about Hampi, a forgotten empire of wealth and grandeur that was sadly destroyed by attacking armies.

    Keep them coming..!! Thank you..!!

    – Jyoti


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