Black & Yellow

If you’ve lived in a big, bad ‘Metropolitan’ and perhaps moreso if you’ve been a tourist, the one element you must certainly have come across is the ‘Taxi’.

New York has it’s

New York Cabbie

And surely Mumbai must have it’s own


The Bandra here has no meaning…(If it does, I haven’t figured it out yet)

Yes, the good ole ‘Black and Yellow’, mostly run-down fiats, with each one of them having different upholstery, some having radios and a few…yes a small few having CD systems. For me, the ‘black and yellow’ has been one of the most fascinating elements primarily cause Chennai my previous home-town has no concept of a regular passenger Taxi. Most Mumbaikars (or perhaps I should say South Mumbai types) would find this surprising, almost as surprised as they are when they find out that they are actually 4 states in South India ( And none of them is Madras). The black and yellow for me is central to the image that is Mumbai, consistent, painstaking, functional and most importantly omnipresent.

Dealing with a Mumbai taxi driver though is an art which takes mastering, and it takes into account multiple variables. The most important of these variables no doubt is the time of the day, given the importance of this variable though we will for the time being deem the others irrelevant.

Time Slot 1: 9:30 AM

Yes, around the time of the day most Mumbai taxi goers try hauling that cab down to get to work. About 10 – 15 mins late, but then hey everyone in office is anyway.

Psyche of Taxi Driver

After some in-depth research, bulk of which involved looking over his shoulder from the back seat. I have come to the following conclusions.

Since all the cabs in Mumbai are on sharing basis – day and night. At about 9 AM, the day cabbie has just got hold of the wheels and is hungry for business. You could well get in and say…”Mt.Tutankhamen’ and the cabbie will be on his way. I’ve tried it, he asked me for clarification only after a good 5 mins…Tulsipipe he asked? The cabbie wants to get going and get going he will, now is not the time to get choosy about going to far off places or about a very short journey.

Tip: Folks who for some reason want to head to Mira Road or beyond early in the morning, now is the best time.


Put on that Donald Trump face and barge into cab like you own it.

Most Probable Outcome

Taxi Driver outstretches his left hand, industrially twists the meter around and gets going.

Time Slot II: 2 – 4 PM

It’s that time of the day when you have to head for that client meeting. You’ve sent them a sms saying you might be late…but this is now beyond late.

Psyche of Cabbie:

For the cabbie, this time of the day could mean two things. He’s either had a hectic morning followed by a hectic lunch or he’s had no business in the morning…and well a hectic lunch. Either way, the cabbie is recovering from his lunch, a snooze in his backseat is therefore far more tempting than hurtling through Senapati Bapat Marg.

If the cabbie has had no business in the morning, he might adopt 2 contrasting stances. Stance one : “I’ve had a horrible morning, let me try and make up for it now.”. Stance two: “I’ve had a fucked up morning, it’s just not my day so fuck it. Will have a few drinks and ask my wife to make up for it.” Now, if you meet a cabbie who’s adopted Stance two, you’re in trouble and you might just have to look for another Black & Yellow.

Most probably outcome:

You might have to send them another sms


Here, the Donald Trump strategy might not really work. Cause if you were to walk into the Taxi and sit on the backseat, you might well actually sit on the cabbies face. And that might not be so pleasant, so here it’s best that you first make sure the cabbies awake. After ensuring this, you ensure you’re flagging a cabbie who’s positioned himself to move in the same direction as your destination, if you don’t well the cabbie will give you that disgusted ‘immigrant’ look and go back to sleep. After ensuring this, clearly state where you want to go and open his backseat only after he replies in the affirmative. Not following this strategy might have you holding onto an open door running behind a moving cab.

Once he’s agreed, you could also sweeten the deal by telling him you have exact change.

Time Slot III : 7 – 8 PM

You’re late for that dinner event or late for that date you planned. Either way you want to find a cab quick.

Psyche of Cabbie:

Tough luck son, you might have that hot date but the cabbie couldn’t really give a shit. This forms the part of the day when he has to return the cab back to the depot, his wife is calling him, so are his kids and so is the Night cabbie who’s now desperate for business. He would like to drop you for sure, only provided you’re going exactly where he’s going…and he he’s not too sure of that either.

Most probable outcome:

What usually happens here is one of these two things. You spot the Black and Yellow in the distance, you wave it down, first timidly then a little more fervently. The cabbie well…he completely ignores you and drives right past. You could stand in his path on the road, he’d probably run you over ( Can’t be a 100% on that one, but I’m reasonably confident)

The other thing that happens sometimes is the following…you flag the cabbie down, he stops…but its sort of a reluctant, hesitant, intermittent stop… ..its almost as if he’s stopping just to take off again. You know the sort of look the hot chick gives you when you bump into her in a bar ( You don’t really have a chance but I will just be nice.) He then sort of gives you a window to say something to him and regardless of the destination, the cabbie half-listens and disappears. I once put my face into that window and screamed ‘Tera ghar’, it didn’t make a difference.

Strategy: Walk it

Time Slot IV: 12 AM – 4 AM

You’re returning home after that late night binge or for some odd reason you work in the T.V industry, either way it’s 4 AM and you need to get home. You flag down a cab, actually at 4 AM he flags you down.

Psyche of Cabbie:

For some strange reason he’s given away the more revenue oriented day slot and has opted for the more ‘profit’ oriented night one. But the night one, really isn’t profit oriented unless you…well have a few passengers. As it so happens, you’ve run into a cabbie who’s having a virgin night, you’re his first ride and well… he’s financially constrained to take you for one. What’s in his favour? Well, for one you’re sleepy and tired. For another, they aren’t too many people on the way to help with directions. Most importantly, in all probability you’re not the nerdy type who tracks his location on something called Google Lattitude.

Most probable outcome:

He’s desperate for business. He’s desperate for sleep. So are you. You mumble out your location and he responds in the positive. Or you infer it to be the positive. You knock off to sleep, hope he doesn’t. 5 mins later you wonder if you’re travelling in the right direction, you whip out your cell phone, turn on Google Lattitude (that trusty Maps Application). Log on to find out where you’re heading…..low and behold you’re heading in the WRONG DIRECTION!! Exactly the opposite one!

Strategy: Install Google Lattitude

That’s it folks, with these tips you should be able to handle getting into a cab and reaching you’re destination at most times of the day in the wonderful city of Mumbai. What it doesn’t cover is what you do when you leave your cell phone behind in the cab (yes the one with Google Latitude) I’m afraid we will have to leave that one for another blog.

P.S I asked my last cabbie what a cabbie would do if he found a cell phone in the back of his cab. He replied, “Agar acha aadmi hein, to woh vapas zaroor dega.” ( If he’s a good man, he will return it)

I asked him what he would do, he smiled.

13 Responses to “Black & Yellow”
  1. Jayesh says:

    Humour always works with the cabbies. Them of the wit-filled Hindi heartland always have a few pearls of rustic country humour tinged with a shade of the melancholy ‘difficult life’ tune. Also handy if you happen to leave your phone behind – will most definitely be returned.

  2. Sisto says:

    I’m shocked he didn’t run you over when you said ‘Tera Ghar’ …

    Btw how many cabbie’s faces have you sat on?

    Can’t wait for the losing mobile post … I have a lot of interesting comments planned even now!

  3. Radhika Mohan says:

    Quite an lot of research on cabbies! Eh? Interesting observations! What about the knowitall cabbies who point out movie star homes and tell you how politicians should run the country??? Considering that long cab rides are the norm in Mumbai, I’ve found this a great way to entertain myself…to just get the guy talking! Mind you it also reassures me, he’s not asleep…

  4. I believe Bandra (or other name of the places) refers to the area that taxi belongs (something like main waiting area/base etc)-Not sure of this though

  5. sudhirsyal says:

    Jayesh – I agree with everything you’ve written except that last line…

    Have your phone returned? Sure…didn’t happen to me 🙂

  6. sudhirsyal says:

    Haha….Sisto. The key is to say ‘Tera Ghar’ and run…in the opposite direction. There is no way he will follow.

    The losing mobile post…still has some events to unfold.

  7. sudhirsyal says:

    @Radhika Mohan

    Haha…absolutely Sweety aunty…the movie stars, the Terror tour not to mention where Abhishek Bhachan sometimes stops for Bhel Puri all deserve another post.

    What about Cabbies who pick up a fight with other folks…leaving the passenger in the backseat selling tickets for a real-life wrestling game…yes lots to look forward to. 🙂

  8. sudhirsyal says:

    Hi Shrinidhi…no have checked this out. To me…it really seems extremely random. 🙂

  9. Vineet says:

    Funny as usual. Over time I reduced my dependence on cabs except post midnight coz of the never ending traffic in Mumbai. I graduated from the cab to the train – a form of travel that deserves a blog post of its own. Post midnight the cab was awesome – 20 mts from South Bombay to Bandra. Another similarity between the NY cabs and the Mumbai cabs is the ethnic origin of the cabbies – Indian !

  10. Sudhir says:

    Mr.Pabreja….soon all the cabbies in Mumbai will be wearing ‘Pabreja’ T-shirts. I can visualize it.

    Perhaps then they will feel inspired enough to return mobile phones to their users.

  11. Rivka says:

    Right on with the cabbie analysis! I rely on my taxi karma to move through the difficult cabbie times, and you know what it works! (Sometimes) My worst encounter was when I could not find a cabbie at the Mumbai RTO and walked most of the way home! Plus I had no idea where I was going.

  12. sudhirsyal says:

    Hahaha….Rivka time to download Google Lattitude.

    Clearly. Funny too are the airport cabbies…they think every person getting off a flight is a millionaire.

  13. Ankur says:

    lol … you write well … entertaining.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: