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Dibyojyoti Pal  | January 17, 2014

If you are in Kolkata and haven't flagged down a yellow ambassador yelling "Taxi!", why did you even come to Kolkata boss?

The iconic Kolkata taxis have found a place in almost all Buzzfeed style lists including "Best taxis in the world", "20 rides you will never forget" and "5 Places where mathematics don't work".

This is not Bangalore. You don't dial 7777-Mogu Cabs and speak to a pretty young lady with a Silk Smitha voice for an hour, before your kakima slaps you and screams that she has already missed her flight. THIS. IS. KOLKATA! Taxis mean business.

Here is a checklist to catch a taxi in Kolkata (- for the noobs. Real Calcuttans fly, while casually holding on to the collar of a co-passenger barely holding on to a minibus door handle. But that is another story).

Stand bang in the middle of the road. But first check for chequered bricks under your feet. For that means you are standing on a tram line. Look up. Bye bye!

By taxi law statute 4040 (a)(2), you will hear at least 4 "oi dike jabo ni", "500 rupiya de dijiyega?", "jam ache, hobe na" and "bari jachhi... tata", before you actually get a real taxi.

But this adventure is just beginning.

Every taxi meter is a Hodge conjecture itself. {Fact: The last guy who could decipher how these meters worked was invited to work on the Large Hadron Collider} 

Also, personally, I think most taxi meters are wired to be inversely proportional to the distance left in your journey. You check and it is on 20.00. Olypub passes by and you wistfully look at it, reminiscing your college days. Turn your head and BAM! The meter is now on 98.00. By the time the ride ends, you are wondering if the driver will go "Gili gili gay... ami PC Sorcar! Myajeeeek!!"

The new pay-as-displayed meters might change this for the better though (and thankfully so). But for people who are not aware that the old meters are being phased out, they can be mini cardiac arrests. I remember picking up a friend from the airport and hailing a taxi for Ballygunge. Midway, we suddenly spotted the meter reading 224.50. Obviously, I immediately started calling friends to arrange for selling my kidney. My friend, who wasn't exactly Premchand when it came to speaking Hindi, screamed "ae burbak tumi amake kidnap korega kya? Ei to dekhchi ek lakh rupiya uth jayega", and then passed out.

I have also met a fair share of taxi drivers with weird quirks on the streets of Kolkata. One with Bumba da idols on his dashboard. One playing Green Day on woofer. One who was taxi driver by day and baul by night. The list is never-ending.

In spite of all this, these chaotic yellow ambassadors breed a strange fond familiarity. Ask any Bangali around, and they will unequivocally agree that there is no larger comfort than the sight of a big yellow taxi.

For that, bondhugon, means home!

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Comments (8)
Anindya Reply
November 15, 2014
Too good...fact of life
Nishant Sharad Reply
January 21, 2014
Two thumbs up!
Shreya Reply
January 21, 2014
Hilarious! There should be one more on the auto-rickshaws. Together, the taxis, and the autos make for an equally horrifying and nostalgic roller-coster ride!!
fanofdj Reply
January 21, 2014
One word - HILARIOUS! Dibyojyoti, you're awesome! Hope more articles come out from your pen.
Sugandha Reply
January 20, 2014
Loved every bit of it. Infact had a mini deja-vu between the lines. The hilarity is bang on.. an ingenious piece. The kolkata taxi's are as much an ordeal as they evoke nostalgia. Kudos!
Souvik Reply
January 20, 2014
For our generation, yellow ambassador is the epitome of public transport in Kolkata. But for the newer generation, I don't think it will be the same. The "blue-whitification" of Kolkata taxis will contribute to that. But then again, for any older "bangali", the most prized possession has always been and will always be Nostalgia.
Sujan Reply
January 20, 2014
In Kolkata, many taxi drivers only go along their own specific routes. It can drive you mad to see taxi after taxi going by but you are not able to board any one.
Aniruddha Reply
January 20, 2014
Hilarious... describes the terrible experiences with taxis all Kolkatans undergo in a very light and breezy manner. LIked it.
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