Leo Mirani takes a cab chauffeur for a ride to check out the new taxi services in town
April 25, 2007 6:21 PM
Meru cab chauffeurs work in eight-hour shifts and are paid a monthly
salary, unlike black and yellow cab chauffeurs who, for all practical
purposes, are self employed. "I have the freedom to do whatever I
want. There's no tension with the kaali-peeli."
Mishra also disapproved of Meru's no-smoking and no-drinking policies. "You can do anything the black of our taxis," he said. "Smoking, drinking, other things. A little fun is okay, but don't cross the limits."
It isn't easy convincing a taxi chauffeur to get in the
back of a cab. Especially when the taxi you're trying to convince him
to get into is one of the new Meru Cabs or Gold Cabs that the Mumbai
Taximen's Union fears will drive the black-and-yelllow fellows out of
business. The new taxis are air-conditioned, available on call and are
driven by uniformed, trained chauffeurs. They also promise
tamperproof meters, a receipt at the end of the journey and a smoother,
more comfortable ride-at a premium of roughly 20 Per cent.
We enlisted the aid of Babloo Mishra, a kaali-peeli cabbie to ride with us in the new cabs and give us his opinion. Mishra, who has been driving his fab for half a decade, arrived outside our office one recent Saturday evening and we rode from Mahalaxmi to Nariman Point in a far-too-cold cab. Mishra seemed non-plussed about his competitor, save for passing remark about the need to turn down the air-conditioning.
"The car is nice," he said some-what dismissively when we reached our destination. "But then, it's bound to be since it's a Maruti Esteem and it's new." Most of the city's black and yellow cabs are Premier Padminis, a car that went out of production nearly a decade ago. Sturdy for sure, they're also ancient, largely uncomfortable and in various stages of disrepair. The Meru cab, on the other hand, rode smooth, had signage with the car's license number, smelled nice and doesn't allow smoking or eating.
For our return trip, we took a Gold Cab. Apart from the lack of restriction on smoking and eating, the ride was identical. We were disappointed to find that the cab's printer was broken, depriving us of a receipt.
"I don't find much difference between our cabs and private cabs", said Mishra. "It's a comfortable ride for those who can afford it but I wouldn't want to drive it because I like my freedom."
Later that evening, when left work for the day and got into one of the cabs that regularly stand outside the office building, we were accosted by a posse of cabbies enquiring about the new taxis. They put on a brave front on hearing tales of air-conditioning, printed receipts and eight-hour shifts but the panic was palpable. "Haan, aap jao. Par hume chodd na mat sir," they said.
Meru Cabs (4422-4422), Gold Cabs (3244-3333), Black and yellow cabs (Stand on the street and yell "Taxi" really loudly).