|View from inside a Kolkata cab
Whenever someone mentions about the “streets of Kolkata”, I get reminded of a street full of vehicles and a rhythm-less blasting background music of honking. About 60-70% of those vehicles are the signature black and yellow ambassador taxis of Kolkata (of course it depends on the area and time of the day). I have travelled by many such taxis when I was living in this City of Joy. Travelling by these taxis definitely exposes you to pollution, dust, traffic smoke, innumerable germs that feast and marvel on the seats and interiors of the taxi, beggars at traffic signals, and of course the intolerable omnipresent heat and humidity. These taxis have no air conditioning. You should thank your stars if you get a clean taxi or if the glass of the windows can be rolled down by the lever.
After travelling by taxi few times I became immune to these things. But what I am going to share here is probably one of the most shocking and shaking experiences of my life. It is definitely on top of the list of worst things happened to me in Kolkata (thankfully the list is not so long).
|Somewhere near Boi Bazaar, Kolkata
It was a Monday. I have this uncanny ability to get late for work on Mondays for which I hurriedly take a taxi to make it to work on time. That day was no exception. I boarded the taxi and sat on the left corner of the back seat. When it was time to get down, to pay the cabbie the fare of Rs. 120, I took out a 500 rupee note and gave it to the driver. Even though I told him to stop the taxi at a dropping zone, he drove a little forward and stopped at a bus stand. To avoid any traffic snarl because of my stopping there I was in a hurry to get down. I waited for a while for him to take out the change for the 500 rupee note. I noticed him doing nothing. I asked him for the change. He said, “You are supposed to give me 20 rupees more”. I said, “But why? I just gave you 500 rupees and the fare is just 120!”. He lifted his left hand (in India we have right hand driving) with which he took my 500 and showed me a 100 rupee note. He adamantly said that I gave him that hundred rupee note only. Though in disbelieve, I thought, may be I made a mistake! I gave him another 20 rupee note and got off the taxi and went to my office. While in the lift, I was still in disbelief regarding the 500 rupee turning into a 100 rupee note. Entering office, I sat on my seat, took out my purse and realised that I actually gave him a 500 rupee note! It was the taxi driver’s trick on me that he cleverly showed me a 100 rupee note and made it believable. My ears became red and eyes peeled in disbelieve! I was flabbergasted realising how I got mugged just like that early in the morning! I could not believe that had happened to me! I told my colleagues and they were shocked too!
About a week later, the same thing happened to a lady colleague of mine. She was in a hurry to get down too! I realised how these thieves loot you in broad daylight by taking advantage of your being in a hurry. They cleverly stop the vehicle at a place where it is not a dropping zone. Vehicles from behind honk at the taxi for stopping at such a busy spot. To avoid further embarrassment, you try to get out of the car to let it go and ease the traffic snarl.
The lesson I learnt here is:
1. Never give the taxi drivers big denomination of notes
2. Make them stop at a proper dropping zone ONLY
3. Be absolutely alert and present at the moment while paying the taxi drivers
4. Never let the driver know that you are in a hurry.
Personally I still like Kolkata as a city to live in. This is one of the very few incidences that was really unpleasant. If you are alert and attentive, you will be fine here.