Conversations On The Move with Mohd Hussain, Taxi Driver, Mumbai

“My mother was from Andhra, and my father was from Varanasi. They got married in Mumbai,” he starts.

I giggle and ask, “Was it a love marriage?

He quickly replies, ” I don’t know”.

I grin, a bit more this time, and chirpily tease him. “Aapne kabhi poocha nahi? (Did you never ask?)

“Ammi died when I was 9 months old, got no chance to ask,” he completes.

 

Sensing unease in his voice, I think of withdrawing the conversation. However, Mohd Hussain doesn’t stop here.

 

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Conversations with Mohd Hussain (Photograph with permission)

 

He looks at me through the front mirror; and pretends to smile with watery eyes.

“When I was 8, my father died. So from childhood I’ve been earning and eating on my own,” he continues.

“Biwi thi, biwi ka bhi death ho gaya,” (I had a wife, she too has died)

I silently shriek by the thought of it.

What happened to your wife? I meekly ask, not sure if I should take this ahead.

“That’s something God must be knowing, Madam” he drops a tear.

I was in foreign that time I used to drive a taxi in Saudi Arabia. We treated her for 9 long years, we couldn’t save her.

From my wife, my younger daughter too caught the disease – her kidneys had dried, they said. Doctors had asked us to give up hopes for our daughter, however, this stress took away my wife’s life. I saved our daughter but lost all the money that I had earned.

When I was eight, I remember walking about half a kilometre to fetch two buckets of water every day. I would fill 400 litres and only then would get food to eat.

About clothes?

Maybe once a year if someone gave at all. I didn’t know of anything except underwear. Didn’t even know what a t-shirt was.

On the footpath itself, taxi drivers would come. I became friends with them and learnt driving.”

I ask him if he ever felt that only if his mother was around, all would be fine?

He looks at me and says, “Ye toh abhi bhi lagta hai. (I feel this even now)”.

 

 

 

 

Conversations with Annie, Cook-maid, Mumbai

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Annie is short and fat, and tanned. She has thick long hair, wildly curled towards the ends.

Dressed in red and black, she has forgotten to carry her dupatta to work today.

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Conversation with Annie (Photograph with permission)

The right side of her face seems to be swollen.

When I ask her, she says, a pimple popped on her chubby cheek last night.

She had even tried to dissect it with a safety-pin.

Annie asks for some Boroline, and meekly cribs about the discomfort.

She narrates how she couldn’t sleep yesterday because she didn’t hear from her son who had left for a motorcycle trek.
She now pats her head and bites her colourless lips, receiving a phone call from him.

Annie lives in the lanes of Lokhandwala, in suburbs of Mumbai with her husband, James and two children.
She was a Hindu Maharashtrian before her marriage to James who is a Christian.

Annie went against the will of her mother to continue with the relationship.

And now she wonders why?

I take out my camera and ask if I can film our talk? I think what she might have comprehended of the term film.

She questions if I’m doing this to assess my new tripod?

It’s going to be a natural conversation, I explain.

She doesn’t respond to this.

I too keep mum.

She again puts some more Boroline on her swollen pimple and smirks. Then mildly gazes at the camera.

Her deep black eyes safely meet mine hidden behind my purple glasses.

This time she smiles.

Annie’s ready for the talk.

I turn on my camera.

These are my Conversations with Annie (CLICK TO WATCH)

My Way Back Home

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Bharti gets frustrated when I ask her to clean the windows or cut the Papaya before she leaves. She says that she has a lot of work in other houses. However, Bharti never goes without playing her little game of wrapping my freshly washed clothes, neatly arranging them in different piles and waiting for my lethargic butt to get up and organise the newly bought cupboard by my landlord in Mumbai, Ram Uncle.

“It’s got a nice mirror, see,” Uncle declared as two seemingly malnourished boys dragged the cupboard inside my room. His wife, Ramini Aunty, dressed in a blue sari with a gajra around her thick black hair bun arrived with a pooja thali in hand, chanted a few mantras in Kannada, and rotated it for about three times She then offered the metallic silver door some white rice and a pinch of vermillion.

While Aunty is tall and curvy, with right bends at right ends, Uncle is short and potbellied. I’m told that he suffered a heart attack, just a few months before I moved to their place.

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Conversations with Mangesh, Taxi Driver – Part 2

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“Till I got married, my father didn’t ask for a rupee from me. My mother used to tell him; “He gave Rs 10,000 for household expenses”.

“It doesn’t matter even if he doesn’t contribute right now, but when my hands and legs stop working, I will certainly ask for money from him,” he’d say.

And see, as soon as I was married, my father made contributing to the family income necessary. When my elder brother married, he gave Rs 3000- I was made to start with 3000 as well but then they kept increasing and today I contribute Rs 5000. Now every month, two of us brothers give a sum of 5000 to my parentsSubstandardFullSizeRender 34

Actually, my parents don’t spend our money at all. They have opened fixed deposit accounts in name of their four grandchildren. Rest they manage with my father’s pension.

I remember never really enjoying going to the school. Once I told my father that I no longer wish to attend it anymore. My father caught me by my collar, and thrashed me inside the car. Till now he beats me.

I don’t drink every evening, but have this desire to enjoy Sundays. For the sake of enjoyment, I bring alcohol at my place. Sometimes I get a ninety, sometimes one entire khamba. In that case, I become out of control, and my wife tells this to my parents. Then my father comes, he beats at times, says that my wife has come to our place because of me. My wife is 12th pass, and I’m 8th fail.

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Conversation on the move with Mangesh, taxi driver, Part-1

In our neighborhood we had a newspaper vendor. The ones who distribute newspapers door to door? I used to do this work early morning before I would leave.

I was admitted in a nearby school, used to go there but never studied. I would start my work in the morning everyday and later attend the school.

School mai bhi Bhan Bhan, ab home-work nahi kiya hai, aray kahan se krega? Subah se leke sham tak toh kaam ke upar rehta hai, ek Sunday ka din hi araam rehta hai usme bhi tum home-work bol deta hai.

[In school too there was no comfort. Now, didn’t complete my homework. But when will I do my homework? From morning till evening, I’m working, there’s just one Sunday when I get to rest and in that too, you force me to do homework.]

My attendance was about 75-80 days out of 275 for an entire year. I had never crossed 100 ever.

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Mangesh, taxi driver, Mumbai

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Conversation On The Move With Shyam Mane, Rickshaw Driver, Mumbai

I’ve told my son that I’m giving him full freedom to study- he doesn’t have to study in the afternoon and work in the evening. I’ve told him that once he passes his exams; his life will be sorted. Now, if he starts working with the Maharashtra government, he’ll get about 40-50 thousand rupees as his salary.

I’m not forcing him at all, have told him the reality of private sector.

15-20 hazaar rupay milta hai private sector mai. Aur government mai ek baar lag gya, toh rashtrapati ko bhi allowed nahi hai tumko nikalne ka.

[Nowadays, one gets just 15-20 thousand rupees in a private sector job. And once you’re appointed with the government, even President isn’t allowed to chuck you out.]

 My son is in the third year of BMS right now, once that gets completed, I’ll make him sit at home and ask him to just prepare for his exams.

He’ll sit and eat and just study.

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Shyam Mane, Rickshaw Driver, Mumbai (Photograph with permission)

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On The Move With Radhe Shyam Mithulal Verma of Faizabad

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I’ve studied till class five.

Ab aap din bhar kheti mai kaam krengi, thak jaengi toh padhengi kya?
[Now for an entire day if you were working in the field, later being tired, would you study?]

I was 14-15 years old when I ran away from my house without telling anyone, neither, mother father, nor anyone else at home.
The first job I did was of washing glasses at a hotel in Surat. I didn’t know anybody there. I didn’t know the place either.

Kuch bhi maloom nahi tha. Bas aise hi bhaag gaye.
[Didn’t know anything, just ran with nothing in mind]

I left with only Rs 40 in my pocket at that time. I used to be paid Rs 10 for work of 12 hours-

subah 8 baje lgta tha, raat ko 8 baje chooth ta tha, lekin usme bhi do mahine ka 200 rupaya bach jata tha mila kar.
Rehne ke liye jaise ye hotel hai, iske band ho jane par , uske chajje ke neeche so jata tha.

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Radhe Shyam Mithulal Verma of Faizabad (Photograph with permission)

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On The Move With Dinesh Kumar Jaiswal, Rickshaw Driver, Mumbai

29-year-old Dinesh Kumar Jaiswal brings forth the underlying aspirations and dreams of every individual.


“Time hi nahi milta yahan. Pehle kaam phir ghar. Yahan kisi ke paas samay hi nahi hai.

 Mumbai se accha hai gaon. City se accha hai gaon. Wahan kam kaam krunga tab bhi khana kha skta hun, yahan kon khilayega?

[We don’t get extra time here. First work then home, nobody has extra time here.
Our village is better than Mumbai. Our village is better than a city. There, even if I work less, I’ll manage to fetch food, who will feed me here?]”

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Dinesh Kumar Jaiswal, 29, Rickshaw Driver, Mumbai

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On The Move With Mohd. Jamaludin, Rickshaw Driver, Mumbai

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Mohammad Jamaludin , a 27 year-old, owner and driver of the Rickshaw I sat in seemed super excited when I told him about my personal project of collecting life stories of Rickshaw/Taxi Drivers. “You’ll get the best story from me,” he exclaimed.

I like the life where there is saving- where someone in front of me says that yes man; he’s done something in his life!

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Mohd. Jamaludin, 27-year-old Rickshaw Driver, Mumbai (Photograph with permission)

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