Kolkata sleeps early. So when by chance I met a certain gentleman (whom the local newspaper later reported was a Mr. Poddar) at around 9.00 pm somewhere on the street, we were intrigued by his car.
“It’s a custom made car….” He said. The vehicle was a twin seater with huge wheels resembling a Go-karting sportster. We were amazed at the unusual vehicle. What we didn’t know that he was probably just returning from an exhibition of these jet setting beauties at a prominent mall.
Fast forward to Chetla market. Nestled at the backside of the outrageously priced Alipore Road is this humble settlement on both sides of the road. Gracious local shopkeepers invited me to view their merchandise.
“No, I’m not interested in the fishing nets, but can I stand here and wait for my cab?” They seemed surprisingly courteous.
The road was lined with buses. Tomorrow is Election Day. Cars are moving at snail’s pace. Its takes us 45 minutes to cross a 2 km stretch. Somewhere in a building nearby, a supervisor seems to be giving instructions to party workers in Bengali. A hand cart vendor tries to negotiate the road. A pedestrian tries his luck as well in an attempt to board his bus. Among this chaos, a premium styled Jaguar is also stuck with the same fate. With traffic, it equalizes the rich and the poor. No one furthers faster.
This is a city you can’t move around without cabs. Is it long unconnected stretches you ask? Too much traffic, you get the answer. One way traffic at different times on different roads. So if you are new and caught on the wrong side of the road, heavens bless you or the miraculous stop to traffic by a friendly traffic policeman.
While the yellow cab is on its way to be phased out, you can’t but help noticing the “No Refusal” printed on its side. Its refreshing, up to the time, you actually reach the cab and are told various reasons why you should not be traveling by the cab to your destination.
Enter Ola cabs and Uber. Taxi hailing turns pleasant and air conditioned. You wait, and wait and wait for your “one minute away” cab. The one minute distance showing in Ola is perhaps by Air. The roads and the cabbies are a different story.
Elections were on in Kolkata. The city branded itself in Blue and White. The railings were blue and white, the LED covering itself on its quaint old world lamps was also the same colour. Some random thoughts follow.
Too much traffic. Its like Bombay , but moving in slow motion.
Too many traffic rules. Too many one way restrictions.
Fresher air than Mumbai. More trees. More birds.
Too hot and humid. Again combine Bombay and Delhi weather at its worst…or maybe its the dry spell.
Beautiful old world buildings. Same issue as Mumbai, neglected and covered with telephone wires.
Parks. Schools. A city that studies.
Stark Rich Poor Divide.
Poverty. Saw a beggar woman licking an empty bowl of curd.
Better lighting than Mumbai/Delhi for historic monuments.
Sleeps at ten.
Continuation of previous Post.
Bombay is the heart of cinema in India, called Bollywood, aka Hollywood.
“You have such wonderful interiors!”. I gaped soaking in the ambiance contrasting to the shabby exterior.
“You have wonderful taste!Where did you get these prints from?”
“They took the car and covered it themselves. No charge to me.”
“How many such cars are there?”
“About five of us, I guess!”
I snapped the pictures of these living canvases of Bollywood personas before alighting.
Running a quick search on the net, discovered an artist behind Taxi Fabric. Interesting.
Saturday morning is generally quite lazy. After a few kilometers walk and a cup of beverage, it is more so. Rather than walking back, I decide to take a cab. Saturday morning at 8.00 am is in no way a good time to find a cab easily on Nariman point. Overpriced Merus and Cool cabs line against the street, waiting for an unassuming tourist to step out from Trident. I am in no mood to pay price of a Starbucks coffee for the short commute, so do what comes naturally to many Bombayites; hail a kaali peeli.
Kaali-Peeli , translated : Yellow-Black cab; comes in many versions. Gone are the days of the oversized Ambassador, the linear Fiat; now we see stout Korean brands, most newly bought; zipping past and stopping only if they like where you are going. (!)
So, when I spotted a kaali peeli, I got a bit disheartened.
“The old Fiat!” I sighed and waved to the driver.
He caught my eye and soon trudged down the road with his 1990’s engine roaring while I waited impatiently.
I almost shut my eyes while I mumbled out the destination.
It was just a moment, …then…Blink! Blink!
My seat was a canvas of colour. Bollywood colours and dialogues made me a captive audience.
Then I asked him about the interiors.
( to be continued tomorrow)
Its early Sunday morning. Sounds of Traditional Drums. Bright orange turbans. Carpeted stretch of road. Loudspeakers blare music. An MC somewhere in the distance. Selfie Point! Runners. Lycra Sportswear. Branded footwear. French perfumes.
Pavement dwellers watch the show from the comfort of their (un)homes, lying on the cardboard sheet which is their bed.
“A Marathon?” Trying to make sense of what is this fuss about.”Whats that?”