So on my way home I felt a sudden upsurge of pre-mature nostalgia when I saw a padmini taxi pass me by, while waiting for my BEST bus. I thought,”bus ne mi nehmich jaatey, aaj Padmini taxi gheuya”. I kept looking for one, ignoring the other taxis with a high brow …
A Padmini stopped by, I quickly hopped into it .. Only to find it in such a poor state, that I thought this might be the last one of the Padminis compelled to retire from the roads. It was almost like a host of broken pieces stacked on four wheels, which might just manage to reach the scrape yard with the fingers crossed. The driver must have thought lets earn some moolah on the way ! Usme kauno harj hain – I can only imagine … I dare not roll down the window glass, for I might have disturbed the handle off its act of being cringed to the door.
I have always loved traveling in these Premier Padminis, for they provided a cinema-scope view of the road ahead. It was almost like watching a movie from the kaali – peeli (black and yellow taxis). I get talking to the guy who’s chameli ka tel is whirling in the whole of taxi and I am trying to ignore it by looking at the interior decoration of this mumbaiya public transport. There any many things in the taxi that tell a lot of the driver… Do not mistaken this for the car hangings, or car seat cover designs. Because most often the taxi wale bhaiyas are running the taxis that are owned by some other shethji. So a carefully tucked newspaper, some godly stickers near the upholstery would speak a lot than letting the paan-filled mouth spit any details for you.
And our conversation sparked off when I saw a billing machine placed right below the digital meter box. Maine kaha , “bhaiya yeh kya hain ..” (At times some obvious questions lead to interesting answers) he said, “kya hain… Bill ka machine hi toh hain … Apko bill milega… Jitna bhada hua utneka…” (At times they don’t)
“Kaafi purani lagti hain aapki gaadi ?” I cautiously quipped. So the taxi was not going to a scrape yard. It was 18 years old, and the rule said that 20 year old taxis should be called off the road. But by the looks and feel of it this taxi I was traveling in seemed 81 years old. Clinching at every bump, screeching at every break applied, and almost losing all its parts one by one as we zipped through the comparatively less fractured Mumbai roads.
Letting my imagination wild, I almost thought that only the seats and the steering wheel will reach my destination instead of whole taxi.
At one of the signals, when I got a break from squabbling and bouncing up and down, I put my phone on camera mode; leaned, twisted and turned to get a few clicks of what was a typical fading out Padmini taxi. With a thought that I would head home and punch in my thoughts here.
The kid in me wanted to see the bill machine work. I handed over a 50 rupee, as the tiny box spat a strip with my billing amount, date of journey, start time, end time, wait tim, total distance in kms, vehicle number (very much imp for those who leave theirs chhatris, cellphones and at times bags in taxis). A note wishing me a nice day at the end of the parcheee put a smile on my face. !
I will always heart the old Padmini Rides .. For they are the real taxis … Rest are just cabs !