Finding a Taxi Cab in the city has always been an undesirable task. Although it is the second time that Government introduced scheme for providing Taxis to the people, but Taxis are still very difficult to find. First, it happened in 1990s that the Federal Government introduced the Yellow Cab Scheme for unemployed youths, the second time it was the Provincial Government that decided to give Taxi Cabs to people of low-income and lower age on installments. The first scheme ended in the de-nationalization and re-colorization of most of the taxis and finding place in the garages of the buyers. The second scheme is in its first stage of operations with more fears than hopes about its future. I was, therefore, apprehensive when told to arrange a Taxi the next day to drop three relatives and their luggage to the Railway Station, as I have heard a lot about the tension, frustration, embarrassment and the haggling involved first in finding it and then dealing with the driver.
As I am a great believer in the quote, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail” and aware about the paucity of the Taxis, I decided to start looking for the Taxi two hours before the departure time of the train. The estimated time a taxi takes to Railway station is 30 minutes. On the “D” day, I was out of my residence at 2 PM and after reaching the Main Road looked for a strategic place where I could keep a vigilant eye on a Taxi as well as stay safe from the cold winds of January. Fortunately I found the right place, it was a junction of three roads to the left of a huge billboard providing good protection from the swirling winds. I congratulated myself, as “well begun is half done”. I started my quest for the Taxi with a positive frame of mind. In a low tone I began whistling a popular song. However, taking the caution that no other person listens to it as, I had no bones about my whistle-singing- abilities. But, I have not forgotten my main aim and my eyes kept on moving on from one road of the intersection to the other. There was no trace of anything resembling a Taxi. After some time I casually looked into my watch, 20 minutes had already passed. My whistle-singing effort petered out and I decided to concentrate more on the three roads fearing that I might have missed some Taxi during this period due to relaxation. After passage of some more time, I realized that the time had started running, I looked back into my watch after a few minutes, and found that 35 minutes had already passed. A feeling of uncertainty gripped me and my management sense asked “What is the Plan B”? I did not have one. So what should be my next move? My mind was in a quandary when I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice saying “Bao (respected sir) what is the time”?. Already being pinched by time I felt angry, but told him the time which was 2:40 PM. “You are standing here for some time, is it OK,”? the man asked. “Are you from the agencies,” I retorted. “No, no, I was only asking if I could help you, if you are waiting for some transport,” the man replied. God has sent help, I thought and asked how he could help. He told me that he was an auto-rickshaw driver. I told him that he could not help me because I need a Car Taxi which carried four people as well as heavy load and not auto-rickshaw which could carry 2/3 people and a very little load. I then described the whole situation. “No problem, you can use three rickshaws to take your relatives and their luggage to the Railway Station, using 1.5 rickshaws for passengers and the remaining 1.5 for luggage. Our rickshaws are spacious, comfortable and beautiful,” he gave his proposal in a confident manner. I asked him how much he would charge and how much time it would take to reach the Railway Station. “How much you estimate to pay for Taxi,” he asked. “Rs 700/,” I made an understatement. “I don't think so, it must be at least Rs 800/, you may pay Rs 300 / for each rickshaw for passengers as well as the luggage”. I told him that it came to a total of Rs900/ which was very high as compared to the comfortable and faster journey on a Taxi. “You have not calculated correctly, time is also money my dear sir. You looked to be an honorable and educated person and your every minute must cost at least Rs 5/ per minute, you have already wasted 50 minutes amounting to Rs 250/, and still waiting” he declared like a certified cost accountant. “As for faster journey, he continued, our rickshaws would complete the journey faster as they could move through the traffic faster due to their smaller size,” he announced his judgment with authority. Mindful that time was running fast I decided to agree to his conditions and told him that it would be his responsibility to adjust the luggage and drop us at the Railway Station at least 25 minutes before the train's departure. “You don't worry everything will be done, and let's start immediately towards your house,” he told me with a tone of urgency in his voice. Suddenly, a thought flashed through my mind, and I told the driver that the deal will include dropping me back . “Out of question, for that you will pay an extra Rs 300/,” he declared. It was now my turn show my knowledge and I reminded him that he was charging Rs 300/ for a fully loaded rickshaw while going to the Railway Station how he could charge the same amount for the return journey with only a very smart and slim person on board, with much less fuel consumption. Taken aback by my reply, he agreed to an amount of Rs 250 / as the last deal. I was happy because I was sure that charges from Railway station to my home would have been no less than Rs300/. It took 20 minutes to go home, put the luggage and settle the passengers and leave for the Railway Station. The whole exercise was undertaken by the three rickshaw drivers efficiently, but noisily about the size and weight of the luggage. It was 3:10 PM when we left and in 30 minutes we were at our destination. The coolies told us that the train had just arrived and would leave after 25 minutes. I quickly paid the agreed charges and as I started to move with relatives towards the Platform the deal-maker rickshaw driver stopped me and asked me where I was going, as he had to take me back. I told him that I would come back after settling down the relatives in the train and then we would go. “There was no such agreement of waiting and if you want me to wait there will be waiting charge of Rs1 per minute,” he replied. Feeling embarrassed in front of relatives I agreed and told him that I will return in 15/20 minutes. “Not more than 20 minutes,” he declared. As the train had already arrived there was a great rush on the platform and we were able to settle the things just before the departure of train at 4:05 PM. As the train left the platform I rushed out of the Railway Station and moved to the place where the rickshaw was standing when I left for the platform. To my consternation there was no rickshaw. I looked left and right, but found nothing. I waited for a while, and then thinking that he might have gone to the rickshaw stand, moved to that place. I found a lot of rickshaws of the same design and color, but as I had not noted the number of rickshaw, it was not possible to find the same. I did try, by going to each rickshaw and looking at the face of rickshaw drivers, but failed to find the desired one. He had run away I thought, these types of people are not reliable and I should find a new rickshaw, I told myself. I started my search and after some haggling got a deal for Rs 300/. Just as I was going to enter the rickshaw, some body pulled me back, when I looked back it was the “run- away” rickshaw driver. “Where are you running away after fooling me,” he thundered. “Where were you I had looked for you for half an hour,” I reacted in an angry voice. “I waited for you for 20 minutes, and then went to attend to the call of nature, and after coming out you should have come to the rickshaw stand. Instead, you were gone if I had not found you,” he narrated his point of view, blaming me emphatically. I told him that I had not noted the number of his rickshaw, and also told him my part of the story deleting his “running away” part. “I have been waiting for 30 minutes in all therefore, either you pay me Rs 30/ and go with the new rickshaw or if you want to go with me, then you will pay me Rs 250+30= Rs 285/ and pay some amount to the other driver. When I asked about the quantum of adjustment amount he told that Rs 25 will be OK. In the meantime the other rickshaw driver had also disembarked from his rickshaw to join the discussion. “What are you talking about, are you crazy, it would not be less than Rs 50/”, he shouted. It was now the turn of the other Taxi driver to show his vocal cords. “Are you new to this profession or to the city or want to rob a gentleman,” the first driver showed his sympathy for me. The new Taxi driver suddenly moved towards me, caught my arm and pulled me towards himself and shouted at the top of his voice “ Come on with me I have a deal with you”. It was now the first driver's turn to show his brawn and he also started pulling me towards himself saying that he had the first right on me. The shouting and pushing match had attracted a lot of by standers, I was in an extremely awkward situation, tension and anxiety writ large on my face and being pulled towards both sides and people looking on like watching a comedy show and I was the comedian. The first driver than declared that I could go with the other, subject to my paying him Rs 100/. Suddenly, my ears heard the following words delivered emphatically at a high pitch: “I will decide and that will be final, you both understand,” it was no other than I who had suddenly found the voice. How that happened I did not have the faintest idea. I took out purse from my pocket, selected a Rs 50/ note and handed it over to the second driver and asked him to leave, which he did with some murmurs against the other driver. I then took out Rs 100/ note and gave it to the first driver and told him to leave immediately, which he did. The people who have gathered around us clapped their hands and I suddenly I found that from a comedian I had become a hero. I decided that before another change occurs I must move out from the scene and started moving towards the main road. My mind was still occupied with the events of the most recent past. As I was about to reach the main road I passed by a car, it was of black and yellow car and was also unoccupied, I had found a Taxi at last. The joy was unbearable, my face lit up and I asked about the charges and was told that it would be Rs 800/. I did not argue, opened the back door, sat on the seat and asked the driver to move . I stretched myself on the whole seat with both arms under my head as a cushion. It was a strange feeling, a feeling of relief, joy, freedom, superiority and victory. I had forgotten all the stress, tension, anxiety, frustration and resentment, I had gone through and that I would spend Rs 950/ for the back journey instead of Rs 250. I started to whistle-sing a well known local saying “Jan bachi to lakhon paiay (Life saved means getting millions) I however, did not, whistle-sang the second part of the saying “Khair say budho ghar ku ayay (The stupid has safely come back home)