Big Yellow Taxi

(Posted by Melodrama)

I do not own a car and rely on cabs to ferry me all around Calcutta. I favour cabs because:
(i) I just do not have the patience to wait for a bus or a tram or the metro.
(ii) I hate crowds.
(iii) I have started enjoying the thrills and heart-stopping moments involving rides in Calcutta cabs.
(iv) I am lazy.

Calcutta cabbies fall under two categories, the bengalis or the non-bengalis. If you have hailed a bengali cabbie, the probability of having an interesting conversation is high. In the past, I have discussed Rabindranath Tagore (I knew next to nothing about Tagore, but after the ride I felt I was equipped with enough trivia to put any self-respecting, cultured bengali to shame), the communist state government in Bengal, the decline of the jute industry, why Dalhousie square was renamed BBD bag, the Goethe Institute and the Calcutta Film festival. Most bengali cabbies are inquisitive and over-helpful and will ply you with advice until you are ready to yell “Tagore” in exasperation.

The non-bengali cabbie is another ball game. You will never need to visit an amusement park as long as you take rides in cabs in Calcutta. The cabbie often harbours the misconception that he is Schumacher and your heart will be in your mouth as you see him weave and twist in the traffic. No self-respecting Calcutta driver drives in a lane, so how can our cabbie? You open your eyes and just when you think the bus charging into your cab will flatten you and you start whispering your final prayers, the cab will lurch and you will bang your head against the cab top and will find that the cabbie is cheek to cheek with the lorry that was along your cab and the driver has stuck half his torso out of the cab to abuse the bus driver who dared to take over his right of way. When you reach your destination the cabbie will have no change and you will often find his meter tampered and spiked. A long argument will ensue between you and the cabbie and will result in you resolving never to take a cab again. Then when you need to return home, you hail a cab and breeze into it and forget all your resolves until your next encounter with a non-bengali cabbie.

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