Mumbai taxis and ME! My topsy turvy rides!

taxi ride

Image: pexels.com

Surprisingly, this post is not about me as a parent or I talking about my child. This is me as a Mumbaikar enjoying a slice of my adopted city every day.

For the last 2 months, I have been traveling a lot in app-based taxis. They are expensive, but frankly speaking, being splashed on with mucky water is not my idea of monsoon fun. Anyway, to cut down the cost, I have been opting for “share” and “pool”. Believe me, it’s an eye-opening experience every time I take one.

I have had some memorable moments – some enjoyable, some humorous and some, errr…crazy ones.

The social media addicts

Once when I booked a shared cab, a brand new brown Wagon R stopped in front of me. I saw a couple sitting at the back. So I opened the front passenger door, but what do I see, a huge 4-wheel suitcase on the seat. So, obviously, I sat beside the couple in the back. The couple was newly married, I could see a shiny chuda (wedding bangles) on the girl’s hands. The guy was sitting between his wife and me, and was mighty uncomfortable, as most “sharrif” (decent) North Indian men are. Anyways, a chatterbox, I started talking to them. Oh, by the way, the boot was full too with huge suitcases. On talking with the couple I came to know that they were visiting Mumbai on a fun trip. I gave them a few ideas on what to see, where to eat and shop. On the way, I asked the cab driver (who was a polite guy) to show them Bachchan’s bungalow, given that it is a huge draw for tourists. They were first excited, but when they actually saw it, I could see their faces falling down.

“It’s so small!” They exclaimed.

“It’s big by Mumbai standards”, I replied.

“Hamare Chandigarh mein to har kisi ki itni badi kothi hoti hai, yeh kya khaas hui!” – In Chandigarh, every other bungalow is huge, I don’t see anything exciting.

“But, it’s quite expensive!” I felt I needed to defend my adopted city.

“Ya, but we have expensive houses too in Chandigarh!” came pat the reply. I didn’t feel like replying to it.

It’s Bachchan’s house. The USP is – it is Bachchan’s house. Period.

We dropped them at Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. I just could not contain my curiosity and ended up asking them, “How come you took a shared cab!” People who could afford one of the most expensive hotel stays seriously don’t need to share a small Wagon R with strangers.

“Oh, it was a genuine mistake. It was our first booking on Ola, and we thought ‘share’ option was that it would share our status on Facebook!”

My mouth opened up involuntarily and my eyes kept on staring them incredulously! Later on, of course, I had a good laugh over it with my friends.

Seriously! The social media-addicted youth of India! God only save us!

People who don’t care for others’ time

On a Monday morning, I booked my cab at 7 am. I needed to reach my destination at 8 am. I thought I had ample time and I would reach on time. The driver came bang on time and greeted me ‘good morning’. I thought it was a good morning too. The next second sounded the buzzer to inform there was a second passenger. We took him in. And, then there was a third. His address wasn’t easy to understand. So the cabbie called him up. The person says, “When you reach this particular chemist, take a u-turn and then take a left from the pan-patti.”

We got to the chemist and took a u-turn, but couldn’t for the life of us find this pan-patti. It was 7:25. Which pan shop opens up at this hour.

So we kept on moving in circles. The person was not reachable as he was in the elevator or some godforsaken place out of reach of the call network. So after 15 minutes, we could finally get through him and got a proper address out of him. It was 7:40. And, so it was 8:20 by the time I finally reached my destination (thankfully, mine was the first drop).

The interesting conversations with cabbies

Apart from interesting co-passengers, you get to talk to the cab drivers too. Their was once this driver who ran a small time agency that provided junior artistes in Bollywood movies. But his once thriving business was hit hard by the demonetization, and he opted to be a taxi driver to survive.

Then there was a cabbie who humbly claimed that his track record was so good that Ola gave him maximum rides with women passengers. God bless him!

Then there are ones who are either exalting Modi government or cursing it.

And then, there are times you get some weird ones too! Like one time, there was this young lad who took me on the wrong route. When I pointed out to him, he didn’t reply. Just the day before I had read a disturbing post on someone’s Facebook wall about how a driver had misbehaved with her. I was about to raise an alarm when the taxi stopped and the driver looked back at me. My heart was in my mouth! And then he said apologetically, “Madam, it seems I am lost. Do you by any chance know the correct way!” Oh, and then I let out a sigh of relief!

There was this cabbie who throughout the journey was badmouthing Ola and Uber, and how they were sucking poor cabbies. According to him, all these app-based taxis would shut shop in a few months, as they were doing very badly. This was on the day when the news of Ola raising fresh funds were splashing all over the news.

Well, whatever said and done, I am enjoying these everyday taxi rides and wouldn’t have it any other way! What about you? Do you have some interesting taxi ride stories to share??

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A trip to Chhota Kashmir in Aarey Colony – The green lung of Mumbai

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Of course, with your partner, right? Wrong, a valentine doesn’t always need to be someone you are sexually attracted to. In my case, it was certainly not. I had decided to celebrate this Valentine’s Day with my 3-year old and her friends.

For all those who are wondering what is Chhota Kashmir, it is a huge green expanse of land in Aarey Milk Colony in Goregon East. It’s green and beautiful, hence the name. Tell you something, it’s not something that has developed overnight. My mother-in-law used to visit it in her childhood, a good 50-55 years ago.

A trip to Chhota Kashmir in Aarey Colony – The green lung of Mumbai

So history aside, we went to Chhota Kashmir on the Valentine’s Day. Being a Saturday and the school’s holiday helped our case. My daughter and I were accompanied by two of her classmates and their mothers. We booked a radio cab and set out for our picnic. Miraculously, the traffic was quite light at 10 am, and we reached there within 30-35 minutes.

As soon as we crossed the Western Express Highway and moved towards the Aarey Milk Colony, we noticed a huge difference; the tall buildings gave way to tall dense trees on either side of the roads, the cacophony of the blaring horns transformed into sweet chirping of the birds and the infamous Mumbai traffic thinned out completely. Nobody passing through the WEH would know that there is a heaven tucked away in the middle of the concrete jungle. It looked like a scene from a period movie, old and untouched. Soon we reached the Chhota Kashmir garden. We bought entry tickets Rs. 20 per person (kids above 3 are charged the same as an adult). Inside, we came across a cafe where we saw furred rabbits and colorful sparrows. It goes without saying that the kids were absolutely delighted.

A trip to Chhota Kashmir in Aarey Colony – The green lung of Mumbai

We moved ahead to find a few kid-friendly amusement rides. They charge Rs. 20 per child and Rs. 30 per adult, and no bargaining. Later on, we decided to explore the park a bit. Sadly, apart from the beautiful trees, cacti and flowers, there was nothing much. The park was in a shoddy condition, the grass was patchy and plastic bags and bottles littered were everywhere. But the love birds (I guess due to the Valentine’s Day, there were a lot of couples looking for some peace and quiet) tucked away behind the trees and bushes hardly cared. We had a good time playing kiddie games like blind man’s buff and oranges and lemons, and racing. If only we had a mat (FYI, we did carry one, but left the packet in the cab 😦 ), it would have been fun sitting under the shade and munching on  junk, but tasty foods like biscuits, fried finger rings, cream cones, chips, and Choco sticks.

There was nothing much to do, so we headed to the Chhota Kashmir boat club, on foot. It’s hardly half a kilometer, so we decided to walk. Yup, kids walked as well. It was midday and it was quite hot. I had thought of hiring a nice functional six-seater boat with a boatman. But when we reached there, we came to know that they had only pedal boats (Rs. 30 per person/child). So, though the boat could accommodate all of us, there was to be no boatman. My friend and I pedalled the boat around the pond, with some help from the kids. 😉 There were ducks sitting pretty at one end of the pond; at the kids’ behest, we pedalled over there, took some pictures and returned all under 20 minutes. Some feat! But the legs, I must tell you, continued to groan due to the unexpected labor even after a few days.

A trip to Chhota Kashmir in Aarey Colony – The green lung of Mumbai

There was a small cafe near the boat club. After the hard work, we needed some serious food and how we hogged on the butter dosas, missal pavs and cheese grilled sandwiches. We again booked a cab for the return journey. The mothers were exhausted, but the kids. Nah! They wanted to enjoy some more picnic. Some enthusiasm these kids have!

It’s a great place to visit, but advisable only if you have a small to large group. Also, I would recommend you visit the place around 4:30-5 in the evening and enjoy for a couple of hours. But leave the place before the sun sets as it might get deserted.

However, this little haven in the heart of Mumbai may not be there for much longer. The BMC has come up with a redevelopment plan for Aarey Milk Colony under which 3000 healthy trees (some as old as 80-100 years) will be cut to give way to a swanky business hub like the BKC. It’s a pity, the air quality level is deteriorating and a concrete jungle feeding off a green zone will hardly help matters. We need to stop it. And fast. If you support deforestation, please join this group https://www.facebook.com/groups/saveaarey/ and tweet using the hashtag #SaveAarey. Every single tweet will help.

An Afternoon Well Spent

Since a long time, my neighbor cum friend and I had decided to visit the nearby aquarium with our little daughters. But what with one thing or the other, we could never make it.

But today morning, I was an inspired person (a little guilty too of neglecting my daughter of late;  I am sure all mothers feel that way at one point or the other even though we stay with them the whole time and look after all their needs and tantrums). I wanted to do something different for my daughter. That something had to be ‘only’ for her. So I called up my neighbour first thing in the morning and invited them to join us. And surprise of all surprises, we finally got that empty window for our playdate.

So when the clock struck 12, we stepped out with our daughters all dolled up and their bags full of water bottles, snacks, napkins and ball (oh yes, my daughter’s one of the many balls is with us all the time; she even refuses to sleep without one. Every night is a fight for space as the ball also needs to rest with us on the bed).

Anyways, (enough about the ball) the Dolphin aquarium (the name’s misleading; there are no dolphins) though located in the congested Irla, Vile Parle area of Mumbai, is well-secluded and has a good parking area nearby. It houses lots of fishes (I don’t even remember their names now. Let me still try; upside down catfish, albino fish, nah, just leave it at that. I remember the colours though; white, black, red, orange, silver, etc.). Clean tanks and beautiful fishes; girls went ga-ga over them. But 5 minutes later, they had forgotten all about the fishes swimming around them and got busy with the green ball (not again!)

visit to the aquarium

The girls enjoyed their train ride though I didn’t hear my little one singing her favourite “Puff a train, puff a train!” May be another time.

visit to the aquarium

And finally, they showed how happy they were with their little excursion. Mission successful! Next visit, Taraporewala Aquarium!

visit to the aquarium

For the moment, I am happy looking at my little pumpkin sleeping heavily after her little picnic.