Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A London cabbie in Chennai? Believe it, or not!

Dad arranged for a call-taxi for me.  By 2:40, I was all ready for the cab, which was scheduled for 3:00.

2:50, and I got a tad antsy that the cab might be late.  Dad called them, and updated me.

I was pleasantly stunned when the call taxi arrived at 3:00 sharp.  Another measure of India's economic progress.

As I got in, dad gave the driver details for the destination.  After all, I am always a visitor in Chennai and don't know anything about the city other than a handful of landmarks.

I closed the door and put my seat belt on.

The car started its jumpy drive over the gravelly road when the driver asked me, "are you from America?"

I am impressed every time when this happens.  There are plenty of guys around in this city who are dressed no differently from me--shorts or jeans and tee-shirts.  Yet, drivers and vendors figure out from my behavior that I am from the US.

This time, I wanted to know how and why he asked me that question.

"Only people from America wear seat belts here in Chennai" he said.

Yes, he spoke to me in English.  Not any choppy sentences either.

I normally stay away from conversations with autorickshaw drivers.  But, with taxi drivers, I am ready to chat, as I am with taxi drivers in any part of the world that I have been to thus far.  We ended up talking all the way to my destination.

"So, will the Democrats win this time?"

I laughed away the question because I didn't know if he wanted them to win or lose. 

"Last time, when Obama won, I felt as if I won" he continued.  "Even now I get emails from his campaign website.  The site doesn't care if the supporters' email addresses say co.uk or co.in.  I even get the fundraising emails"

The guy's English was pretty good, and his behavior was different from the typical taxi drivers I had encountered.

Turns out that he has been driving in Chennai for less than a year now, after having been a London cabbie for a few years.  That's right--London as in the UK!

"I came back because I didn't like the life there."

"So, are you from Chennai, or you chose to come to this place, after having grown up elsewhere in India?" I asked him.
"From Chennai. Triplicane. I went to Hindu High School."

I am mostly inclined to believe that he was in the UK, driving a taxi.  Of course, it is always probable that he was taking me for a ride, figuratively as well.  But, even if he was lying, well, he was one good actor in the Shakespearean world stage in which we are all actors with our own entrances and exits, eh!

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