'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Mumbai Transit

Last weekend - a persistently rainy one. We had to travel from Pune to Ahmedabad. We could only get railway bookings from Bombay onwards so had to take an absurdly costly volvo bus from Pune to Sion, bag and baggage - my share thereof: two big bags weighing well over a dozen kilos each on either shoulder plus another nearly dozen kilo bag in hand.

At about six, we get down at Sion, a mess of severe rain, puddles and rush-hour traffic. We decide to eat an early dinner somewhere and wait for the rain to let up a bit before going to Bandra Terminus (within 4 kilometers) to catch the Amdavad train. An eatery is found after a painful, two hundred plus meter slog.

An hour later; rain continues to fall heavily and steadily with an occasional sharp gust of wind; we don't have a lot of time left so we step out, luggage and all and look for a taxi. I flag down a few but the moment I mention Bandra, each one of them drives off. One senses things beginning to get real nasty - rain smacks the face like so many whip-lashes, the straps of the heavy bags keep sliding off sore shoulders, the other bag threatens to tear off my aging forearm, ...

We find a taxi parked on the sidewalk with the driver standing beside. I say Bandra; he says: "okay" and pauses. I walk around to the boot, eager to dump the bags (they are not waterproof so one can't put them on the muddy sidewalks). The driver makes no move. "Open the boot!" I plead desperately. He looks away and says: "three hundred and fifty rupees... only"

I recall: across the circle down a lengthy subway, the auto-rickshaw territory begins; but, what if the subway is waterlogged?

Another taxi approaches; he says: "We will go by meter but the straight path is slushy I will take you thru Bandra-Kurla complex!" I silently turn and stagger towards the subway, bracing for the worst. Surprise, down there was perhaps the driest bit of ground in the city; and it was even clean enough to put down the bags for a breather or two!

Right across is an auto-stand. The first 3-4 autos refused flat; a couple of drivers drove off making dirty faces. Finally, one chap says: "okay, give me a hundred and fifty." Although exhausted, I argue: "Look, it is a 50-rupee distance."

"I know, it is sixty by the meter" he says. "but there are so many potholes, what if the auto breaks down? Who will pay for the repairs?"

"Hundred. take double charge" I make my final move. "one twenty; done!" he decides unilaterally. I surrender: "Yes. okay!"

At the precise instant, another autowallah nearby who had refused us says: "I will take you there for a hundred!"

The 120-guy jumps out and a loud argument erupts between the two. I frantically grab 120 and say: "hello, we need to catch the train!"

He withdraws from the fight, quietly helps us load our stuff and starts up. As we enter Dharavi, he says: "we need to halt a second!" He goes off and returns quickly enough and sees us thru to Bandra all right (the route is messy and filthy but nothing exceptional by Bombay Monsoon standards). At the station, he helps me hoist the bags back onto my shoulders (as we would find out, a walk three quarters the length of a train awaits us here). I pay him the 120 (perhaps a taxi ride via Bandra-Kurla would have cost less!) and he says: "Thanks! That other fellow, he is a 'Bhaiya'! They will ruin this city... but I have told some of our guys in Dharavi to let him have it!"