Cabbies and straws in the wind

On a visit to Mumbai, Salil Tripathi marvels at the sardonic wit and wisdom of a cab driver

Photo by Soumitra Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Soumitra Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
user

Salil Tripathi

Wisdom of the cabbies in Bombay


So I got into a kali-pili (black-and-yellow) cab today, on my way to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. My driver had white hair; he had a Ganesha statue on his dashboard, and a small floral garland around the idol. He was from Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state, and expressed concern about my leg, asking me if I had any permanent injury.

Reassured I was only temporarily disabled, he asked me (I write below from memory, translating his text):


CD: Aap ko Modi-ji kaise lagte hai? (What do you think of Modi?)


ST: Main to yahan nahi rehta hun, aapko kaise lagte hai? (I don't live here; how do you find Modi?)


CD: Are, aap to padhe likhe hai, aap bataiye aap ko kaise lagte hai? (You are well-educated; you tell me what you think of him?)


ST: Mujhe to pasand nahi hai. Aapko? (I don't like him. What about you?)


CD: Are, ye kaisi baat karte hai? Aap to Gujarati hai, na? (What are you saying? Are you not a Gujarati?)


ST: Haan, hun, lekin sabhi Gujarati ek tarah nahi sochte, na? (Yes, but all Gujaratis don't think alike, no?)


CD: Aap Ramayan to jante hoge... (You must know the story of Rama)


ST: Ji bilkul (Yes).


CD: To Modi-ji to Ram jaise hai (Modi is just like Rama).


At this I felt a sinking feeling. I thought he'd give me a lecture on how Modi was great and just what India needed, and we were about to enter the golden age of Rama Rajya.


CD: Aap bandaro - yane monkey - to jaante honge (You must know monkeys - who were part of Rama's army)?


ST: Haan (Yes).


CD: To jab Ram ne Lanka se yudh kiya tab Vibhishan ke sar pe tilak lagaya, taki bandaro ko pata chale ke Vibhishan ko yudh me kuchh na ho. (When Rama invaded Lanka he smeared Ravana's brother Vibhishana's forehead with a mark, indicating he would rule Lanka after the war was over, so that the monkeys would know they should not attack Vibhishana).


ST: Achchha (OK)


CD: Vaise hi ab jo note-bandi hui tab Gujarati or Marwadi bijnesmen ko tilak lagaya gaya, taki unhe kuchh bhi na ho. (The same way during the currency ban Gujarati and Marwadi businessmen - presumably who support Modi - were marked out so that nothing would happen to them).


ST: Achchha? Aap ko kaise malum? (Really? How do you know?)


CD: Ek bhi Gujarati ya Marwadi bijnesman ko pakda gaya hai? (Has any Gujarati or Marwadi businessman been arrested?)


ST: Pata nahi (I don't know).


CD: Kaise pata chalega, jab hua hi nahi? Bandaro ko pata hai ki unhe kuchh bhi nahi hona chahiye (How would you know, if it hasn't happened? The monkeys know they should not harm them.)


ST: Yane? (Means?)


CD: Modiji Ram ki tarah hai. Ram ne Vibhishan ko bacha liya, Modiji ne apne sathio ko bacha liya. Aur bandarone Lanka jala di. (Modi is just like Rama. Rama protected Vibhishana, Modi protected his friends, and monkeys burned Lanka).


I stayed silent.


CD: Isi liye mai ab tihattar ka saal ka hun, din rat ye Taxi chalata hun, hame Modiji kahte hai Ola ke driver ban jao, PayTM lagalo, lekin ham apni mehnat karenge, ye dalalo ki zaroorat nahi hai hame. Bas aise chalata rahunga. Aur Modiji Ram Rajya basa lenge. (That's why I'm now 73 years old; I drive my cab day and night. Modi tells us to become a driver for Ola; to install PayTM. But I don't want those agents. I will keep driving and Modi will establish his Rama Rajya).


And I truly marvel at the wonderful, metaphorical way the driver told me how he saw the world drawing on this fine work of Indian literature.

This article first appeared as a post on the author’s Facebook wall, on February 20, 2017.


Salil Tripathi is a senior journalist based in London, UK. He tweets at @saliltripathi

This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. National Herald neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.

For all the latest India News, Follow India Section.

next