24 Belvedere Estate

Black & Yellow Chronicles – 3

Posted on | June 7, 2009 | 1 Comment

(continued from here)

“Today I will tell you how we hotel cabbies actually make our money.”

(This was getting interesting. This I definitely wanted to know.)

“You see, the money we make from people like you is chillar (petty).”

“What do you mean?” I asked a tad indignantly.

“300 to 400 rupees is all I make from passengers like you in a day. What will that fetch you in Mumbai?”

(Good point, I thought. Though the chillar bit did hurt my ego.)

“So?”

“Well, 4-5 years back, when this hotel was coming up, some 30-40 of us wanted to set-up a stand here. But the hotel people wouldn’t allow it. So our association stepped in. Remember I told you our association has a setting everywhere? They cracked a setting with the hotel also.”

“Setting with a five-star hotel?”

“Yes. We paid the hotel people a lac. So they allowed us to set up a cab-stand here. Then the association people cracked an agreement with them.”

“What agreement?”

“Every one of us has card from the hotel. Like a membership card. We use that card.”

“How?”

He grinned.

“It is a secret, but I am telling you sir. See, these goras (foreigners/tourists) come and stay at the hotel. They eat their breakfast and then go out to spend the whole day roaming the city. And for that they need a cab. That is where we step in. Now I will not settle for anything less than the fixed rate when it comes to you. But with the goras, I will heavily discount. Full day, no waiting charge, only 600 sir, only for you sir, special hotel rate sir! – that is what I tell them.”

“You charge them less?”

“Yes. These goras, let me tell you, they love special treatment. I don’t think they get anything like that in their country. In their country, they have to do everything themselves. Cleaning, washing, everything. So they love it when I tell them I will take them around town all day, wait free of cost, not ask for lunch money and even guide them.”

(I was seriously not getting the point here.)

He grinned again.

“Let me explain sir. These goras ask the hotel people where they can purchase Indian things. The hotel people tell us. So I ask my passenger – you want leather shoes? Good quality shoes? You want Indian paintings? Antique? Jewellery? Sarees? Miniature Taj Mahal? Mughlai food? No waiting charge, you shop, I wait, only for you kind sir. Usually they agree, so I take them to these shops. They spend forty thousand, fifty thousand, sometimes even one lac rupees. I get 20 percent.”

“20 percent? How?”

“The hotel card sir. It is part of the setting. See the hotel has a setting with the shops. And we have a setting with the hotel. I take the gora to the shop. The shopkeeper knows me because I have a card. So every time the gora spends money, 20 percent comes to me. You can call it guide tax.”

“How much do you make in a day?”

“Who can live on daily wages sir. That comes from people like you. But this way we make the whole year’s earnings in 2-3 months. I once made thirty thousand in one day. Then there are the perks.”

“Perks also?”

“Yes. See we chadhao (put on a pedestal – roughly that’s what it means) the gora all day. Kind sir, good man, no worry sir, at your service sir etc, etc. So when he is done, he will give me five hundred as baksheesh. Then his woman will ask me who all do are there in my home? I will say 2 children and my chacha. She will give me five hundred more for them. That is more than the actual fixed rate I would have charged if it had been you and not them. Perks.”

“So you make seasonal money?”

“Yes, in 2-3 months we make enough to send home and live comfortably through the year. The rest we invest.”

“Invest? Where?”

“There are 70 of us in this cab-stand now. Every year we put money in a fund that the association manages for us. It is our insurance. If something happens to any one of us, the family is looked after with the fund. Then we can take a loan from the fund at 6 percent interest. Education loan, home loan, we take from the fund. Who wants to take money from SBI? We have accumulated 15 lac rupees in the fund in only three years.”

(Home loan at 6 percent. I was feeling like a truly miserable fool now.)

“Our cab-stand has everything now. Food, sleeping arrangements, shifts. It is permanent now.”

“So life is good for you. You could buy a new cab.”

“There is no guarantee sir. The attacks last year drove all the goras away. Business was not so good. We are hoping it will be better this year.”

“Yes, we are all hoping it will be.”

“Mumbai is a tough city. But it has given me everything. This taxi, my kholi – it has also made my son a senior officer in the municipal corporation in Delhi.”

“Your son is an officer in Delhi?”

“Yes, I am getting him married this year. The girl works in Pune. I am getting one lac in cash and a Scorpio in the bargain.”

“You are taking dowry?”

“If I tell you the background, you will not call it dowry.”

“What background?”

“It starts with the reason I came to Mumbai in the first place.”

“To work and make money?”

“No. It was the love of one man that brought me to Mumbai.”

(to be continued)

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