I read about Meter Jam in the newspaper a couple of days ago, and man! I was all in.
Living in Mahim, a suburb away from Bandra is great, almost all my work-related/fun-related things happen a 15 minute ride away from home, so I can’t say I have even half the problems that Mumbaikars, for whom commuting is a Herculean ordeal, have. I’m a lucky girl.
So it sounds stupid when I say I have a problem with cabs and rickshaws. For the unintiated, Bandra is where rickshaws stop plying, anyone wanting to get to Mahim, or anywhere further south of the city has to hail a cab. So I have to go in and out of Bandra everyday either in a bus or a cab.
And I cannot even begin to count the number of times cab drivers have refused to drop me to Mahim, a suburb less than 15 minutes from Bandra becasue “lamba bhada nahin hai.”
And no one will ever say it outright, ki boss, lamba bhada nahin hai, paisa kam hai, nahin jaane ka hai.
Instead they’ll say dumb ass shit like:
This he will say while his pinky nail is furiously gathering wax from his ear as he hangs out with a bunch of his driver buddies. Arre bhai? I don’t see anybody, your meter is up and when the lady behind me wants to go to Napean Sea road, suddenly you’re’ not so ‘engaged’? What happened in the three seconds between me asking and her asking that aapki engagement toot gayi?
I have often walked home from Bandra, a 40-50 minute walk albeit, on more than one occasion with a backpack filled with a laptop and books, in the pouring rain sometimes late at night, becasue no one wanted to take such a short bhada.
And my problems, as I have mentioned are not huge. There are horror stories of people with ailing parents having to walk considerable distances to get a rickshaw or a cab to got to the freaking hospital break my heart.
Now I understand that rickshaw drivers are human too. Ruchi Kumar, who also lives in Mumbai had a different take on the topic. Her approach is a humanist one, we slack off at work so many times, they should be allowed to too. But don’t you get your ass handed to you when you do it frequently? And in a city of a million people, if it happens frequently enough to elicit a response like Meter Jam, then I’ll say, it’s high time we did something about it.
And the recent fare hike was a bitch. It costs an obnoxious amount, but commuters are paying it. So all we’re asking for is service in exchange for the money we’re giving them. That’s hard apparently. Same bloody bullshit, some rude refusals and same bickering, now for 20 bucks more! Now, instead of spending 40 bucks from Andheri station to Veera Desai Rd after 20 minutes of looking for a rickshaw in the blistering heat, I can do the same for 70 bucks!
And so I’m all in. My 8:30 appointment in Bandra saw me leave the house a good hour in advance to catch the bus and walk the rest of the way. I came back by bus too. I’m going to get in a much needed 5 mile-run to my next appointment in Lower Parel (I’m damn lucky work does not require me to look a certain way and showing up in sweat soaked track pants is not entirely frowned upon). I’m going to save my Rs. 50, go to the dairy store down my street where I will buy three ice lollies and laugh my way to the diabetes center.
But even in my idealistic fervor, I’m not entirely sure how boycotting rickshaws and cabs for one day will do too much. Statistically 508 people not taking rickshaws or cabs for a day barely puts a dent in the business that these guys do, but this one is a cause I believe in, so even if I’m a part of a measly minority, I think I’ll do it more for myself than for anything else. I may not be ‘sticking it to the man’ by forgoing cabs and rickshaws for one day, but I think (as per popular sentiment now) I’m going to make this a regular thing. And even the journey of 1000 steps begins with one measly step, they say.
Once a month, I pledge to eat me a nice Meter Sandwich.