Getting More Than I Bargained For

22 Oct

At little after 9 p.m. on Sunday, I decided to take a cab back to my flat.  The cab had no meter, and we agreed on a price of 400 rupees.  At nighttime on most evenings, because traffic is significantly lighter in the city, it should have taken me about 40 minutes to get home from Bandra.  I expected a ride complete with fewer honks and mostly clear roads, except for the dogs, which sleep in the middle of them at night.  I still haven’t learned to set my expectations low enough.  I didn’t get home until 10:45.

As we exited the interstate, traffic was at a standstill.  I could hear what sounded like gunshots not so far away.  People were gathered around in the streets.  “Dussehra,”  my cab driver yelled to me in the back seat.  “Dussehra?”  I had no idea what he was talking about.

A few minutes later, still parked in the same spot, I heard music and saw a huge, ornate float crawling towards us.  It was a parade.   Dussehra is the Hindu celebration of Lord Rama’s defeat of the demon Ravana, the victory of good over evil.  The procession includes the burning of Ravana effigies, accompanied by fireworks.

Trailing behind the floats, which towered over the city buses, were hoards of people dancing to music booming from the sound systems attached to the back of the floats.  The road and sidewalks were packed.  Street vendors were cooking for the masses.  It reminded me of Mardi Gras without the drunken escapades and flashing.

Children ran through the stalled traffic cheering, waving, and dancing.  They even brought food from the vendors to the car windows.  It’s an all-inclusive festival.  By the time we reached my flat, I had two bowls of I-don’t-know-what-and-couldn’t-try-it-because-I-didn’t-want-to-get-sick and half of a coconut.

“900 rupees,” the cab driver said as we pulled up to the flat.  “What?  We said 450,” I replied.  “Yes, but all the waiting.”  While a metered cab probably would have cost me quite a bit with nearly an hour’s wait time, I wasn’t giving into that kind of fare increase.  “It’s not my fault people were celebrating in the street,” I said.  “Not my fault either,” he argued.   I handed him 100 rupees extra (a little less than 3 USD), and opened my door to get out.  Silence.   He knew he wasn’t going to win that battle.

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3 Responses to “Getting More Than I Bargained For”

  1. MomDC October 22, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    The bargain queen of New Orleans! WOW……you are my hero. Can’t even get in a cab here in DC for under $5 USD. Why is everyplace you go so far away? Are you a true suburbanite in the city of millions?

  2. Mom October 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm #

    Sweet, darling daughter of mine- As an anxious, OPEN-MINDED reader awaiting your next blog I am happy to report that I took away 3 positive things from this post.

    1) You got to experience a parade, complete with massive floats, without having to endure the drunks of Mardi Gras. Yaaaay!

    2) You learned how to haggle and stand your ground over unfounded charges. Go you!

    3) You received part of your recommended daily allowance of fruit via the coconut. Atta girl!

    But, as your MOTHER, I came away with these 3 observations:

    1) You were out late after dark in a foreign country!
    2) You were surrounded by what sounded like gunfire!
    3) You pissed off a cab driver!

    Conclusion: No matter how one looks at it, it was an experience……

  3. harish October 24, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    omg! 400 is a hell a lot of money. though people in bombay dont dupe foreigners as they do in other cities in india, a metered cab is what you should go for…

    and if the cab fella argues too much.. just insist that you see a cop.

    you could call in for a taxi too … you could call meru cabs at 022-4422 4422 or http://www.merucabs.com

    just that you need to book in advance. Meru cabs are safe and metered.

    if you get stuck… remember, you have friends in bombay now. Friends whom you have met in the bus.

    Harish Iyer @ 9833100340!!!
    call me anytime.

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