For the past six months in Abu Dhabi and now Mumbai I have taken a taxi basically every single day and thus probably had something like two hundred different drivers. I used to write here a lot about my awesome conversations with the ones in the Emirates, they were intelligent, honest, they never got lost and I learned a lot from them. In India however, it is a different story- they constantly try to cheat me, I haven’t had a single conversation with one, and it isn’t uncommon for a cab driver in Mumbai to have no clue about how to get from one well-known site to another.
Of course there are reasons, there is less purpose for a Mumbai cabbie to speak English and there is less incentive to learn all of the locales (whereas in Abu Dhabi, not knowing and, thus making somebody mad, can be the end of your visa if it is the wrong person). But regardless, I am too often aggravated in cabs here in India, and I miss the ease of Abu Dhabi.
Monday was the worst. Going to work in the morning I had to spend 10 minutes looking for a cab, which isn’t the most at all, but definitely above average. Then I get in the cab and I say “worli naka,” he looks back at me, and I swear, says “worli naka”. So we’re off. Then ten minutes later, I all of a sudden realize that he is about to make a wrong turn, I protest, but I’m too late. Now this wasn’t just any wrong turn, he went on an entirely different highway, that for about 2km didn’t have the possibility of a U-turn. Even worse, those two km were JAM-PACKED with cars. I started yelling, obviously, saying, “worli naka!!!!” and he get freaked out, think he might’ve cried a little bit actually, and says “OH worli naka- me borli villy.” I get that the first part sounds alike, but the second part does not… at all. At one point, after the U-turn, and when I had calmed down, I said “oh well this is great” and he turned around, smiled, nodded, and gave me the thumbs up. He obviously didn’t understand sarcasm in English, but he absolutely understood my facial expression and the tone when I said “NO! not good.” When we finally arrived at work, 30 minutes later than I should have, he was too scared to show me the fare card. I said, “how much??” and the look on his face was so sad, and probably nervous that I would refuse to pay. But, of course, I didn’t- it was 80rupees more than it should be, about $1.50, but I’d already made my point, and I wasn’t about to steal from him, since he might have to pay the owner of the car (a lot of them rent them) or something.
The morning was clearly a mistake, a stupid one, and completely a fault, not an accident, but driving home was confusing in an entirely different way. For six weeks I have gone to and from work, about 80% of the time I take the long, but cheaper way- and it is always between 100 and 110 rupees, either way. On Monday night, the meter said 145. Almost one and a half times what it should be. I dunno how he did it, and without a shared language it is hard to protest, and the dollar isn’t worth much of my time and stress, but it is infinitely annoying to have to be on guard that people will cheat me like that. The usual way is that the driver will try to not use the meter and say a random price before we even start moving, which of course I don’t allow. But this… was tricky.
In the end, no matter how much I dislike looking for cabs, trying to have them understand me, not getting lost, paying the right fare, and such- I still have to do it. So, I sit back, enjoy the rides through the interesting city of Mumbai, and convert my feeling of annoyance into productivity so that I never make any of my clients or anyone I deal with, feel like that!
Other posts on cabs and transport:
Taking the long way- deciding which of two ways to get to work in Mumbai
Happy and Balochi cab drivers- good interactions with cab drivers in Abu Dhabi
Wayfinding- getting around and understanding the lay of the land in Abu Dhabi