Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lovely Rita Meter Maid ..... where were you?

Sunday afternoon.... after a soporific biryani lunch (we had joined my dear college friends Anil, Gayatri and their son Nikhil for lunch - we had studied CG together in Toronto way back in 1996) - we headed from Shivaji Park to downtown Bombay. We told the driver "Gateway of India".... only the most well known landmark of British domination in the city... a big archway commemorating the landing of some fancy-pants Monarch or other coming ashore and saying "I declare this land continues to be a part of thy snobby empire - let them eat cake!" .... it's very famous.

Anyway.... the driver indicates that of course he knows it. We head off... and before very long it appears that things are not all that they seem ;) He starts to pull over quite frequently and ask other taxi drivers how to get to the Gate of India. That's ok at first... it's happened a bunch before and they all work like a big database of information together that I think is very cool. But after about the fifth time I'm beginning to think either he suffers from major amnesia or he doesn't trust anyone as far as he can spit. At one point he asks one guy then drives *literally* 50 meters ahead and asks another dude! Arun and I are starting to get a little .... wary, shall we say. Not long after this.... 9 questionings into the ride..... he stops at a red light and drifts over the line (I am surprised that it mattered ... most traffic lights don't seem to have lines that mean anything)... and at the other side a cop on foot pulls him over. The driver throws us a look and gets out. They stand behind us and I see him get 20 rupees and try to bribe the cop. C'mon dude... 20 rupees??!!! That's not going to do it! The cop doesn't even glance at it... he keeps writing the ticket. Arun and I are out and out chuckling at this point.... and when the guy asks the cop for directions to the Gate of India I think we start rolling in the back seat. I would have taken a photo if I didn't think the cop might have objected. ;)

He drives on.... but only to stop 100 meters later to ask for more directions! Unbelievable! Then he turns off the main road and starts a windy, roundabout meander through downtown Bombay and the Churchgate area. I find where we are on my street map and see we have only a couple of streets to get there. Meanwhile ... the driver is asking away.... making kissing noises out his window to attract the attention of passer's by to ask them for directions. It was just comedy at its purest. I was waiting for him to turn around and see the face of Mr Bean.

When we finally arrived after an *interminable* amount of time... we looked out to the meter...which on a cab is outside the windscreen. The guy had this old weathered plastic cover over it and from the back seat there was no way we could read it. I presumed *he* could...perhaps.... and he went to his meter card to translate the numbers into a rupee amount. I watched what he did.... found a number on one side - thought for a moment, then turned the card over to the higher amount side.... found a new amount and handed it to us and said that we owed 300 rupees! Wow... um.... we were a little shocked but not having taken a taxi before we didn't really know, plus he had gone all over the place and maybe that was right. Arun asked to see the meter card..... the guy handed it over and reset his meter at the same time (cheeky bugger!) We really couldn't do much... so we paid. Then afterwards it dawned on us that he had added his fine onto the original fare when he turned the card over! Man.... and to think for one small moment I was thinking of tipping him extra to help pay for it!!! ;) [btw: the following picture is not taken by me... I found it on the web]

Yup..... we wuz well and truly ripped off.... ;) Arun was pissed!

Anyway.... we wandered around through the throngs of Indian tourists around the Gateway.... looked at all the vendors selling the most amazingly useless stuff. :) The best was the enormous balloons that I defy anyone to come up with a use for. No kid could even hold it..... and you couldn't fit it in the car home.... let alone on the motorbike! hahaha.. I'd love to see that though :)

We took a carriage ride in the tinsel-silver carriages around the Taj hotel... then went into the grand and gorgeous Taj for a little break and a drink (fruit salad with fruits I couldn't even name but just loved!) Arun had a falooda..... a rose flavoured drink with ice cream (kulfi) and noodles (vermicelli)!! :)

After that... a walk along the ocean front...then deciding where to eat dinner. We were getting tired so decided to stay local. Gayatri had advised us to go to Khyber (if in that area)... a place near the Taj a few corners away. It was beautiful inside... marble open stairs up to low ceilings and stone walls.... very atmospheric. The food was tasty... but I was already stuffed from the wonderful chicken biryani at lunch so didn't make the most of the Khyber raan (thick thick red spicy sauce and giant pieces of mutton). Yummy cheese naan.... my favourite. ;)

It's took 1 3/4 hours to get home. A taxi to the Marriott in Juhu (only 140 rupees ALL that way) and then an auto from there to Lokhandwala and home ... a looong day.


Anonymous said...

The fruit salad looked yummy!


DonJuanna said...

the guy holding the yellow balloon makes it look like a huge enlarged prostate! I'm SURE you didn't intend that at all :). Wait.. that's not a balloon??

Anonymous said...

Totally frigging hilarious! -jane

Jose L De Juan said...

Nice Blog Judelicious;
Seems you are having fun despite the lack of water and the taxi ripoffs. I am so totally jealous.