Meter Down: Junaid
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this is meter down podcast. bombay taxi drivers write the city in conversation with kabi.
this is the introduction to meterdown. the voiceover is by subuhi jiwani, a friend of mine. The intro music in the podcast is the song Boombai Nagari from the movie Taxi 9211, sung by Bappa Lahiri, Merriene , Nisha and Vishal Dadlani.
oMusic by Vishal Dadlani and Shekar, lyrics by Vishal Dadlani and Dev Kohli
the image is junaid's meter. its the rainy season and he has put on a cover that advertises airtel, a mobile phone company. meter raincoat.
welcome to the lucky 13th episode of meter down podcast. I've been travelling so its been a long time but i'm back in bombay and today we talk to junaid. He's from gujarat, from the chilliyan community who were the first taxi drivers in bombay. I spoke to him on a very rainy monday after a very rainy weekend that left some of the city flooded. was also the first monday after the ahmedabid bombings. my name is kabi and i'm and ex-taxi driver.
kabi: what is your name?
k: where are you from?
j: gujarat. Palanpur.
k: Where is that?
j: 100 kilometers beyond ahmedabad
k: are you from the chilliyan community
k: you are from the chilliyan community. at the beginning, back at the beginning, 50 years ago, 40 years ago, it was chilliyans who drove taxi.
j: yes. at the beginning there were many chilliya,in the hotel (small restaurant) in the gas business, in the diamond business, also in that. the chilliyans were in 4 businesses
k: i have also heard that half the taxi owners are chilliyan. some of them have 5 taxis, some of them have.....
j: yes that true. 5 taxis, 10 taxis.
Many of the drivers had spoken about the Chiliya log, that they were the original taxi drivers when taxis first came to Bombay. Sagir Bhai's taxi ka seth was Chiliya. The drivers had all praised the them, saying they were honest, they don't talk , and kam se kam.
the image is of junaid sitting in the taxi after we reached.
k: is this your taxi?
j: no. its someone elses, my big brother's
k: your brothers? your real brother?
j: i had a taxi but then the permit expired and i had to give it back. you get a permit for 5 years and then you have to give it back. if its our own permit we dont have to give it back but if it is someone else's we have to give it back.
k: who's permit was it?
j: someone elses, from the village.
junaid talks about his job before driving taxi. this always interests me, if taxi was the first job and if so why. if there were other jobs what were they, why did they change them and why did they pick taxi. mostly one picks up jobs one can find... if everyone you know is driving taxi, they will show you how to learn, get a badge and find a taxi. he chiliyan community has hotels and has taxis. its an easy path to follow, following the ones that came before.
k: how many years have you been driving taxi?
j: 6 years.
k: when did you come to bombay?
j: bombay i came in 2002. i came in 2002 when i started driving taxi. before that i worked in a hotel
k: chiliyan hotel?
k: can you close your window because the wind comes in a the mike and affects the sound.
k: you came to bombay in 2002?
j: to bombay
k: and first you worked in a hotel.
j: i worked in a hotel. 1 1/2 years I worked in a hotel. then i learned to drive taxi then started driving taxi. i worked in the hotel during the day then at night for 2 hours i drive taxi. thats how i came into driving taxi.
k: ok. which work do you like better, taxi or hotel.
j: taxi is better
j: working in a hotel isn't bad but they dont pay enough. just enough to eat. he can't do anything else, no other business. all he can do is that job. only 1,500 salary. 1,500-2,000 all of that goes to expenses.
k: how much do you make in the taxi?
j: in the taxi i make 4,000. 4000-5000. in the rainy season about 4,500. 4,000-4,500. otherwise 5,000 the rainy season isn't good.
j: in the rainy season with all the water the taxi doesnt run well. it gets damaged. if you make 100 and have to spend 200 to fix it, what advantage is that? in the rainy season the brakes don't work well.
k: dont say that. it will scare me.
j: 7,000 ok but its dangerous. 24 hours you are always in the truck. driving isn't a good job. a man doesn't get respct as a driver. doesn't matter how expensive a car you drive for, 10 lakhs, 50 lakhs still there is no respect. just like the mercedes, the most expensive car, even if you are a driver in that car, any little touch with another car, they will still cuss you out, talk to you like a dog. they don't look that you are driving a mercedes. that is why a driving job is no good.
junaid feels that it doesn't matter what you are driving, as a driver, there is no respect given
junaid describes what holds him back from changing jobs. its that dilemma, that taking risk, that feeling of free fall. would if it doesn't work out. I will have lost both, the idea of something new and the security of what I have. risk whether it be monetary or otherwise.
k: so what is a good line of work?
j: its better to own a store than be a driver. but it tkes 6 months, you have no idea if it is a good business, good livelihood. if it is in your fate, it will be good. you have to learn it, to see if its good and if it isn't good, while you are learning, what you left and the new one, they both will be lost. your investment will be lost and you won't be earning any money while you are learning, beginning. when you are learning something and some difficulty happens, what are you going to do? all your money is gone. that is why i don't have the confidence. thats why i stay in the taxi.
k: how old are you?
j: 23. 2, 21/2 months over 23
k: so you have seen the face of your wife-to-be?
j: i've seen it. she lives next door.
k: so you know her well
j: we talk all the time.
k: she good?
j: very good.
k: so when is your marriage, next year?
j: in 8 months
k: you really want to get married. its seems that way
j: it is the last desire of our life. its the last thing that we want. after that we don't want anything. after we get married we can't spend money anyway we want. after marriage we can't just do whatever we want. marriage is the last thing.
k: thats very true. now if you want to, you can go see a film.
j: I can go. but after marriage I can't go.
perhaps i'm being a romentic, but when he speak of his wife-to-be i hear something soft and warm in his voice. but the impending responsibilities of marriage are looming. he is coming up on his last harrah....
junaid used to deliver parcels of food to the white house dance bar when he worked at the chiliyan hotel but he never frequented the bars as a customer. at the end of this is an outtake where junaid talks about the bars girls. i edited it out of the podcast because it is very long and i try to keep the podcast short enough to hold to peoples' time contraints. but i think what he has to say about the bar girls is really interesting.
k: do you ever go to the bars
j: i haven't gone to the bars. i've been in them but i don't frequent them. i've been in a dance bar. not to go inside. when i had to bring a parcel from the hotel i would take it inside. it was the white house bar, and ladies bar. there were bar girls and the ladies did bar dancing and the music was really loud. I would bring a parcel and whose ever it was i would go to the counter and say who the parcel was for, take the money and leave. i would be there for as long as it took to do that. but never to frequent a bar.
15 years old
15 years old taxi
25 years old
25 years old taxi
k: how long will you drive taxi?
j: taxi? i'll drive it as long as i can make a living at it. if there is no money to be made i will leave it and find another business.
k: people say and it was in the paper....
j: that taxis will be taken off the roads
k: how many years old is this taxi
k: in the papers it said that any taxi over 15 years will be taken off the roads.
j: they have been saying this for a long time but the problem is that there is no other good vehicle or kind of car for a taxi. because all those cars that people drive, they are only for show. they can't survive on the potholed roads. there is no company that makes strong cars.
k: the fiat is very strong, solid
j: its very strong
the ongoing discussion about the imminent taxi cancellation by age. at first it was taxis over 15 years old. then it was taxis over 25 years old. then they started being cancelled. the drivers like their fiats because they are solid strong cars that can take the constant wear and tear of bombay roads.
junaid describes how the chiliyan community here in bombay first drove the horse carriages. then they got into taxis and now are in the hotel business. he decribes how they get into the hotel business by pooling money, getting the hotel, learning the business together, making money then getting their own hotel. spreading the risk, financially, while learning. it is an interesting story about community and cooperation and changing livelihoods and working together and the whole commercial story of our city. he also talks about why taxi business isn;t very profitable any more.
k: the chiliya community. at the beginning it was the chiliyan who drive taxi
j: at the beginning they drove the horse drawn carriages that were used as transportation
j: then they started driving taxis. now there are not very many left in the taxi business. most of them are in the hotel business. this is what they do. you can get a hotel of about 3-4 lakhs. so one person might not have that amount, so 6-7 get together in partnership. they get a hotel and run it and everyone makes some money. then when they get enough money each one gets a hotel on their own. they all learn together the 7 partners how to run a hotel. then the 7 get their own hotel. thats how it grows.
k: why did the chiliya community get out of the taxi business
j: the taxi business is a headache now. there isnt money in it anymore. you cant make what you used to. its become very expensive to maintain the taxi. can't get original parts, prices have gone up.
k: all the UP drivers say that the chiliya community is very honest, they dont talk needlessly and they are all about business.
j: this is true. they aren't dishonest. they are interested in only their business.
k: ok good. what are your hopes for your life?
j: hope for my life. that i have a good life and the people with me have a good life. that i make money, that i dont have bad things in my life, do bad things, that i say my namaaz, that i do that even if i have to leave other work. its this, but now adays people don't do that. people now dont hold to things like people used to. less people do namaaz, or do it faithfully. now they look at the wealth of work. before if someone said i'll give you rs 500 to take me to bandra, if it was time for namaaz they would not take the fare and say their namaaz. now the atmosphere is such that they will forget the namaaz and take the fare. the atmosphere has gone bad.
the word that i use is atmosphere, but its atmosphere in the sense of society, or the times. its like he is saying the times are bad, the atmosphere is bad, society is bad. junaid hopes to be a good person.
10 years from now junaid doesn't see himself driving taxi. he will try to get a small store because he will be able to do it alone. he doesn't want to do anything that will endanger his honour or family relations if he does something in partnership and it doesn't work out.
k: do you have a dream? in this dream what do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
j: in 10 years? that my wife and children are not in any difficulty. that they don't have to put out their hands for help from anyone.
k: 10 years from now, are you still driving a taxi?
j: no no. there is no future in this. if i can put together 2 lakh rupees, i will get a store.
k: you dont want to get a hotel?
j: getting a hotel isn't good because i can't get together the 5-6 lakhs that it would need to get one by myself. i can get a small store in 1-1.5 lakhs. if i put together a partnership of 6 people, some of the people could afford it if there were difficulties but some wouldn't be able to weather out difficulties if they happened. whether there are difficulties or not is a matter of our fate. if something were to happen then we would lose our respect, our honour. people would say - because of him i lost my money. that is how we would lose our honour. thats why its better to do less but to do it on my own. you try to do good things for someone and they can take it the wrong way. if its a family member, then it becomes a family matter and it reflects on my mother and father, and the family members will stop coming to the house. family relations would go bad.
dreams and fate..........
k: do you have any other hopes?
j: other hopes? i think about a lot but they don't happen.
k: but what are they? what do you think about?
j: i think about making money, doing a big business but whatever is your fate, that is how much you will get.
k: i hope you enjoyed this episode. its good to be back in bombay and back in the backseat, please visit the blog at meterdown.wordpress.com
there are some interesting outtakes on bar girls, on early sagai, on kismat and more on the chiliyan community and of course photos. and join me again when we write the city in converation with another bombay taxi driver. til next time.
this is the closing outtro for the podcast
visual of segue into outtakes
junaid talks about the girl child in his community and their education, their age at marriage.
k: have you done your sisters marriage?
j: my big sisters is done. my little sisters, well, she is a relative whos mother and father are dead. she isn't married yet.
k: does she go to school.
j: no. she is grown. she is about 15.
k: which class was she in when she left school?
j: 3rd. where i am from we don't educated our girls very far. 3rd or 4th. thats it.
k: you educate the boys?
j: girls, when they get older we don't let them go to school. only when they are young. not at 13 or 14. no school, they dont go anywhere alone. they are at home. with their mothers.
k: they get dont get married when they are 13 or 14?
j: 13 or 14 no. when they are 19 or 20. boys get married at 22 or 23 and gilrs when they are 20-21.
junaid does not approve of getting children engaged.
k: but how old are they (girls) when they get engaged.
j: they can get engaged early, when they are children. but they shouldn't get engaged when they are children. this is wrong.
k: why is this wrong?
j: you get them engaged early. you don't know what is going to happen to them. would if they fall down the stairs or slip and break their leg or they get sick, TB or some illness who know, its a matter of god's will, we don't know the future. so then people won't bring her into the family. they will break the engagement. they will find out and break the engagement. its better not to do it. this is somebody's sister. if this happened to our sister, it would be such a sad matter. that why it shouldn't be done, its not good.
i love this outtake. i love hearing junaid defend his wife-to-be. i love that he says when she is young she should be having fun.
j: when i got engaged, i've got engaged 6 years ago, so what did the people in my village say, what did my relatives say? they said the girl isn't good. break it, leave her. no matter how bad she is, i am going to bring her, straighten her out and if she doesn't straighten out then its her life. if they didn't want to bring her into the family then why did they say to get engaged to her? they shouldn't have done it in the first place.
k: they say the girl isn't good, but what does that mean>
j: other people say that. i don't see her as bad.
k: but what do they mean when they say bad?
j: my neighbor, this man,he wants me to marry his sister's daughter or maybe its his brother's wife's daughter. i don't want to do that. he is only thinking of how he can get ahead. he doesn't think about my loss, my harm.
k: but when people say the girl is bad, what are they trying to say? what does bad mean? whats bad?
j: these people what they mean is she won't be able to work in the fields because her family doesn't have any fields so she isn't able to do the work. so she isn't good for you. if she can't do fieldwork, this is her fate. she will do as much as she can. if she can't do it, she can't do it. not everyone can work in the fields. in the taxi you drive as much as you can stand. these people this is what they think, that as much as money person can make, everyone should be able to make that much. but everyone can't make the same. some make more. some make less. some people work harder, some people work less hard. everyone has different habits. they can't stand this. they say this person has made this much, you also make that much. those people are like that. its their attitudes that cause harm. the girl, no matter how bad she is, she still has to run the house. while she is still young, she should have fun, right? she will become a parent one day. then she will know how she has to be. while she is young people will teach her, do this, do that. after she has one or two kids, then there will be no problem.
j: so what are they saying now. they are saying that any loss or dmage that comes it is her fate that brought it. i say if there is loss or damage or evil eye and its in her fate/ future then it will happen, if nothing bad has happened it won't come. these people don't understand. if there is something bad, they say, its in their fate. why don't people think before something bad happens that because of my fate something bad could happen. lets say something bad happens, the taxi gets damaged, they will say it was my fate that the accident happened. there is nothing like that in fate, if you are lucky then things happen. if its going to happen then OK if its not going to happen then not OK.
junaid speaks of fate.
j: so what are they saying now is, they are saying that any loss or dmage that comes it is her fate that brought it. i say if there is loss or damage or evil eye and its in her fate/ future then it will happen, if nothing bad has happened it won't come in her fate. these people don't understand. if there is something bad, they say, its in their fate. why don't people think before something bad happens that because of my fate something bad could happen. lets say something bad happens, the taxi gets damaged, they will say it was my fate that the accident happened. there is nothing like that in fate, if you are lucky then things happen. if its going to happen then OK if its not going to happen then not OK.
junaid talks about fate, kismat
j: in my chiliyan community was have meetings. if anyone does anything wrong in the village we bring them before the committe and make them understand. just like here in bombay we wear pant shirt, anything goes. when you go to the village you can't wear pant shirt. you wear what the culture says
k: what do you wear in the village?
j: kurta pant and hat/cap
k: what kind of hat/cap
j: a round one. yellow. you can't leave the house without wearing it. if youleave the house not wearing it, then the committee in the village they will call you to the committee and explain to you saying that is not a good thing. today you alone went out without your hat/cap. tomorrow someone else will see you and they will do it. then the whole village will walk around without their hat/cap. then the culture goes bad. for this reason you shouldn't do this. that is how they explain. they are the big people so you have to do what they say.
k: how old are you when you start having to wear the hat/cap?
j: from childhood. from when you are 2-3 years old you start wearing it. when a boy starts walking, from that time they wear the hat/cap
k: and the women, what do they wear?
j: they wear a shawl type thing over their head. you should not be able to see their hair.
k: they wear salwar-kameez?
k: and a dupatta
j: when they go outside they wear a black burkha.
k: they work in the fields wearing a burkha?
j: when they get to the fields they take it off. men should not be able to see them. when they are coming back from the fields they wear the burkha.
junaid describes how the chiliya committee in the village ensures that the traditions are followed, both for men and women. men must wear kurta pant and topi. women must wear burkha outside the house except when working in the fields they can take it off. its nice that mens clothing is regulated for a change. that is itsn't just the womenw ho are the keepers of the culture, on their bodiesm, intheir actions, freeing up the men to do what they want. here, even the men are regulated.
k: why did the chiliya get out of the taxi business
j: the taxi lines is a headache. there isn't much money in it anymore. you can't make as much as you used to. maintenance is very expensive. all the parts are copies,not originals, prices have gone up. thats why it doesn't work any more. its 8 or 9 thousand a year just for the permit now. it used to be that a year of parts would only cost you 3,000, now its 10-11,000. and if you go to get parts, they are all duplicate. you cant get original. everything is duplicate. the company used to be around, now the company is closed. thats why you cant get parts. and those companies that make part make duplicate. what used to last for 6 months now only last 1 month. you used to be able to get tires for 700. now its 1,700. one tire is 1,700. the price has gone up for everything. thats why it is expensive
part of this was in the podcast. this is the rest of it. junaid explains how expensive it is now adays to maintain a taxi.
junaid explains why he doesn't go to bars in the continuation of part of what is in the podcast. he doesn't want to drink and people drink in bars so its better not to go in bars.
this clip starts with some new images. on that rainly night.. i shot the lights of the taxi and the lights in the night from a distance. in the second image i move in on the light shining through the windscreen. the third image is the taxis, blurred because of the settings and my shaky hands. i liked what came out. the last image is a repeat but its all those lights, brought into focus. i thought is went together nicely
k: do you ever go to the bars
j: i haven't gone to the bars. i've been in them but i don't frequent them. i've been in a dance bar. not to go inside. when i had to bring a parcel from the hotel i would take it inside. it was the white house bar, and ladies bar. there were bar girls and the ladies did bar dancing and the music was really loud. I would bring a parcel and whose ever it was i would go to the counter and say who the parcel was for, take the money and come out. i would be there for as long as it took to do that. but never to frequent a bar. my friends would go but i wouldn't go
k: but why wouldn't you go?
j: i didn't go. Its the wrong line.
k: this work is wrong?
j: its wrong. people drink alcohol. drinking alcohol is not a good thing.
k: yes, its not a good thing
j: i could go there and drink a thumbs up right? but when you are all together and everyone else is drinking then.. whatever the atmosphere is, thats how you will act. in bombay everyone rides around in taxis. if only you dont ride around in taxis.. how does that look? same if everyone else is drinking and i'm the only one who is drinking thumbs up. its not good. people don't like it. my friends will say - hey what is this you drinking thumbs up? drink this, drink that. then one day i will drink it and my habits change to bad. as along as i never drink, its fine. but if a man drinks once, he will always drink. he will never leave it. its better to not start.
juniad talks about the bar girls. His thoughts intrigue me because they don't touch on morality, the good or bad of the women. he talks about the atmosphere of the bars and how they pick up bad habits and how they will have problems in the future. he understands they make good money, and he has no problem with women working. but his concerns are with their future life and security.
k: the men that you live in the room with, do they drink sometimes?
j: those friends i was talking about that go to the bars. they live around, their are neighbors. here you make other friends from work that aren't from the village. the men from my village wouldnt drink. if they drank, they would get hit. it is very forbidden for us to drink.
k: but the women who dance in the clubs, do you think they are doing something wrong?
j: its not good.
k: but they have to make money also
j: its true they have to make money but they should look for another job. there are lots of jobs. just like in an office. lots of women get jobs sitting in offices. big people hire them to do the housework. they can do housework.
k: but they make more money in the bars.
j: yes they make more money but the men that go there are bad. their intentions are bad, the way they speak is bad. if they end up getting married, they will get slapped for the rest of their lives. because they will have learned to speak in a bad way. just like a woman who is good gets spoken to with honour, women who are from the bars will swear and cuss, whether its her husband or anyone because it has become a habit. yes the money is good and im not saying dont wrk, but the habits she picks up arent good and thats not good for her life.
k: sometimes she is supporting her whole family on her earnings.
j: but her whole life gets ruined. yes as long as she is young she will earn money. but after she is no longer young who is going to feed her. you should also think ahead to old age. the man who thinks about where his food will come from tomorrow, not just today, that is the man who will win. today i ate this is fine. but you should think about tomorrow. the women who go work in the bars, 50 men coming and going, their manners and the way the speak is all different. these women will start speaking like that at home. however you teach a child, that is what they learn. so they act like the bar even at home, they get bad habits.
12 year old boy
i ask this question a lot. what advice would you give a 12 year old boy from your village who wants to drop out of school and come to bombay to work. junaid gives the answer. but he goes further than most drivers and brings up something i often wonder about. in villages,house after house have a male, or more than one male, in the city earning. that leaves mostly women raising the children, or one man and lots of kids. so what is the effect on discipline, especially in villages where people are working all day. do the boy children have that authority figure that keeps them in line and in school?
k: lets say there is some 12 years old boy in your village and he says to you, i want to leave school and come to bombay with you to work. what would you tell him?
j: a boy? this is what I would say. study, now isn't the time for working, now is the time for study, for school. i would try to make him understand. if he didnt understand then if he is the type of boy who causes problems to his mother and fathers then i would bring him to bombay and try to find him a job, like in a hotel. they should study some some boys are hooligans and they don't study and they hit their parents and they get in fights and there are fights at home. its not good. so then you make them get a job to straighten them out. you put them in a job with a big man, and that big man will hit them and staighten them out. these young boys, they dont obey their mothers.
k: why don't they obey their mothers?
j: where i come from boys dont obey their mothers
j: they wil say yes yes and then do what they want. mothers aren't quick to hit their sons, they fear their fathers because fathers will hit their sons.
k: so they fear their fathers and obey them
j: they are afraid. mothers dont hit them
k: so they don't fear their mothers
k: why did the chiliya get out of the taxi business
j: the taxi lines is a headache. there isn't much money in it anymore. you can't make as much as you used to. maintenance is very expensive. all the parts are copies,not originals, prices have gone up. thats why it doesn't work any more. its 8 or 9 thousand a year just for the permit now. it used to be that a year of parts would only cost you 3,000, now its 10-11,000. and if you go to get parts, they are all duplicate. you cant get original. everything is duplicate. the company used to be around, now the company is closed. thats why you cant get parts. and those companies that make part make duplicate. what used to last for 6 months now only last 1 month. you used to be able to get tires for 700. now its 1,700. one tire is 1,700. the price has gone up for everything.
part of this was in the podcast. this is the rest of it. junaid explains how expensive it is now adays to maintain a taxi.