Before I come to the actual story , let me give you a bit of background. Years ago, I was travelling in a cab at night in Mumbai. One doesn’t hesitate to travel at 11:45 pm in Mumbai, owing to its title of being a safe city. I hopped into the cab, a Maruti Van, incidentally the image of which has been marred by multiple movies as a kidnapping/rape vehicle. Thankfully, things went peacefully, as the car cruised along the Lower Parel to Bandra back road. Now, I am a suspicious person in general. I am sure I must have been a sniffer dog or something similar in one of my previous births. I noticed that in the middle of the cruise-y drive we were on, the driver put on his ear cords. Nothing suspicious about this if you really ponder hard with strained face muscles after the incident happens, but at 11:45 in the night everything(and everyone) looks suspicious. I was seated right behind the driver and I decided to keep an eye on him.
Approximately 5 minutes and 30 seconds later after the ear cord putting action, I looked into the rear-view mirror after having completed the pressing task of making sure I had read all the latest status updates by my friends and groaned after the battery ran out.
The driver was fast asleep! And that was not the worst part. The worst part was that the car was running on happily, as if nothing had happened, at speed 70 kmph or so.
I tapped the driver’s shoulder, a thing I normally avoid doing because I am a stickler for people’s privacy and if someone taps on my shoulder, I jump out of my skin which I deem as an appropriate response to the aforementioned act of invading my privacy and tapping on my shoulder. The driver thankfully just gasped loudly and realised that he had dozed off. We were near Mahim, a place which I would prefer to search-for-a-cab-because-my-driver-is-like-Garfield only during the daytime due to its close proximity to Dharavi, one of the most crime infested places in Mumbai. But I had to make the choice. A sleepy driver made the entire city unsafe for me. Even if he dozed off in front of a police station, I would no longer be alive to write this blog. So, I got down after doing some vague probability calculations. My phone was also peacefully asleep by now and there was no one on the road, except a few street dogs. Thankfully, a cab arrived, after what seemed like thousand years. The cabbie demanded Rs. 200 for going to Bandra, which if I ran at that time of the night, I would reach in 15 minutes tops. I took the cab and sighed loudly, as is customary to do so when one has undergone through such trauma. I reached Bandra safely and vowed to the following.
a. Never doze off in a cab when I am the only passenger in it.
b. Stare into the rear-view mirror from the back-seat to the point that the driver gets scared.
Cut to 2015 I found a new option to ensure that drivers don’t doze off anywhere they fancied.
2015: We were driving to Surabaya from Yogyakarta. We had left Yogykarta after sunset and we were well into the night. As the night progressed, everyone started dozing off, including me. I realised that point ‘a’ of the vows I had made approximately 5 years ago was getting violated. So I stared into the rear-view mirror. But the driver had eyelids which covered most of the eye area, even when his eyes were open. *Physics and maths always sneak into one’s life unannounced, don’t they*. I kept staring and he was impervious to the rudeness which I was exhibiting. The car kept moving at a steady pace.
Earlier on the trip we had talked about how the area between Surabaya and Yogyakarta was infested with ghosts and snakes. But the combination of the two had scared me the most – ghost snakes. What if there were ghosts of snakes in our vehicle? Also, there had been mysterious cloud type formations in front of our car the moment we talked about ghosts and they mysteriously disappeared once we got appropriately scared.
Anyhow, back to the driver and my self proclaimed role of a passenger-who-would-not-let-drivers-doze-off. I had figured out by now that it was impossible for me to understand if he was asleep or awake using the power of my eyes. I had to do more. I asked my friend who was fast asleep on the front passenger seat to take my place and I took my throne on the front seat. Ironical how it becomes a throne when you do something important on it, like saving people’s lives. Friends who were in the car – you can thank me by buying me coffee ;).
Once I sat on my throne, I felt in control. But things had to be done. I examined his full face, feeling like a moronic robot while doing so. He looked weary. I suddenly remembered people’s love for Bollywood in Indonesia. I had a bucket-load of Bollywood item songs. I know it reflects poorly on my taste of songs and one ‘should’ listen to more soulful songs, but jarring sounds coupled with questionable lyrics wake me up best in the morning and hence the item songs on my tablet. I started playing one after the other in a loud volume.
The driver started grinning from ear to ear. He also pressed the accelerator and brake with more alertness and enthusiasm, I noticed. I was bushed, but there was no way I could stop mixing the songs. All was well. We reached Surabaya safely and I realised how exhausting it would be for someone to be a taxi DJ, if such a profession ever took shape.
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