According to a report in the morning papers, the new fares have hit the taxi business badly. Taxi-cruise 20 kms, before they get a single customer. This is quite true.
For instance, as usual I came out of the house this morning and started looking about for a kindly taxi-driver with whom I could beg and plead to take me the short me the short distance to the office, without overcharging me too much.
To my surprise, I found several taxis waiting right below the house. Must be a strike, I though, some traffic policeman must have abused a taxi-driver and all the drivers have gone on a lighting strike until the police commissioner apologises on behalf of his policeman.
However, it was not a strike. All the drivers came rushing to me, urging me to get into their vehicles. "But you don't even know where I am going," I said. "I am not going to the airport or Andheri, I am just going five-rupee distance, and the maximum I can pay you for it si Rs. 7. Otherwise, I will walk."
One of the drivers came out of his vehicle, got on his knees and held my legs: "Sir, please do not walk. Everybody is walking since the RTO has raised since the RTO has raised the fares. How can our families live if nobody uses our taxis. I will charge you anything extra, only five rupees."
Another driver said: "I will take you at the old rate, Rs. 4.50. We will forget Mr. Dandavate's budget, rise I fuel prices, Mr. Ajit Kamlani, Mr. Quadros. Please, come in my taxi."
A third taxi-driver almost carried me into his taxi.
"You are going to travel with nobody except me," he said. "You may be my only customer for the day and I am not going to lose you."
"Other drivers joined in. They all pulled me, one way and another, towards their respective taxis. "Gentlemen, please," I said, "I can travel by only one taxi at a time. Why don't you try and find some other customers. I am sure, a lot of people would like to go to Kalbadevi and other crowded areas, but are unable to because you don't take them."
"We would take anybody anywhere, but are the customers," said one taxi-driver, in tears.
By this time, other passing taxis had stopped. More drivers were begging and pushing me to travel with them. Every time I was pushed into one of the taxis, I was pulled out and pushed into another. This went on for some time.
Finally, I did manage to get into a taxi and reached the office. The chief looked at his watch and said: "You are late. What is your excuse this time?"
"I had problem getting a taxi," I said.
"Always the same excuse," the chief said.