When app-based taxi operators Uber and Ola went on an indefinite strike across India, their objectives were:
- Higher commissions/earnings
- Better working conditions
- Enhanced benefits like regular employees, e.g. health insurance
- Sending us on an unplanned international trip
That last one doesn’t sound right, does it? But that’s exactly what it did. After all, the Law of Unintended Consequences exists for a reason.
Need proof before we believe you. Is that what I hear? OK, so here goes. As they say- Haath kangan ko aarsi kya, aur padhe-likhe ko faarsi kya (Loosely translated: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.)
It was midnight when my wife and I decided to live it up a little, and make an impromptu visit to the Chhastrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus to look at the historical old town and its gorgeous monuments in all their lit-up glory. This decision by itself was monumental for two reasons:
- We were awake at midnight, for we usually crash by ten at the latest; and
- We agreed to travel thousands of kilometers. OK OK, I know it’s not thaaat far, but as someone great often says- Distance dil mein hona chaahiye! (Distance is what it feels like, loosely translated).
And it so came about that I whipped out my phone and started looking for an Uber or Ola (whichever’s cheaper determines our brand loyalty of course). However, as you may have guessed from the rambling introduction to this story, and we came to realize now, there was not a single cab to be found.
It is then that the third monumental event happened. At the peak of Mumbai humidity, my wife and I decided to ‘go for it’ by catching an Auto-Rickshaw (or Tuk-Tuk as it is referred to by foreigners, making it sound more exotic and cute for sure, but not reducing the misery induced by its back-breaking ride quality and nerve-wracking driving even a little) to our destination.
We got one right below our building, and wonder of wonders, he even agreed to take us to our destination. Our eyes filled with wonder, and hearts full of excitement, we were dreaming of British-era Art Deco buildings, and Heritage structures that took you to a different era altogether, when suddenly, the Auto (or Tuk-Tuk if you prefer) stopped, and the Driver brusquely quipped- “An utar bhi jaao, saari raat yaheen rehna hai kya? (Get down now, do you intend staying here the entire night?)
We got down and stretched our arms in a leisurely manner, and stopped mid-act, as if someone had said “Statue” to us and we would be disqualified if we moved even a muscle. For when we looked around us, we couldn’t help but notice that we were not at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, but at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport instead.
“What on earth is the meaning of this?” I angrily asked our driver, “We wanted to go to the train station.”
“Bambai mein naye aaye ho kya saaheb?(Are you new to Bombay?) he replied disparagingly, “Aapko pata nahin hai kya ki Auto Town nahin jaate, sirf Bandra tak jaate hain. (Don’t you know that Autos(or Tuk-Tuks) are allowed till only Bandra and cannot enter the Historical Town area.)”
“Then why did you agree to take us?” I shouted.
“Aapne Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj bolna shuru kiya, itna lamba naam kaun sunta, mujhe laga airport hi jaa rahe hoge. (You started saying the name of your destination, and I switched off midway, it was so long, so I completed it myself mentally and assumed you wanted to go to the airport.)
Suddenly, I felt an incessant, insistent tapping on my upper arm. I tried batting it off, but it continued unceasingly. I turned around finally, irritated beyond belief, but thankfully, didn’t say anything in anger, for I realized that it was my wife who was performing the exquisite tap dance on my arm with her shapely(browny points, he he) fingers.
“Are you out of my mind?”
As you might have guessed, this was her talking to me, and not me to her.
“Of course,” I replied, “that is why you married me. But why do you bring it up now, pray may I ask?”
“Because,” she said patiently, “you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. Now that we’re at the airport, we might as well go somewhere.”
“But…but…but” I stuttered, “What about our passports?”
“Oh, I’d brought them along of course,” she replied, “You don’t expect me to travel thousand of kilometers to Town without our passports, do you?”
Seeing merit in her suggestion(as if I had any other choice) I paid off the Auto driver, and we went inside the Airport. We now started looking for the cheapest tickets to ANY destination, and finally, found something within our budget on a Kuwait Airways flight to Istanbul.
“Why are these tickets so cheap?” I asked the girl at the ticket counter, once again looking the gift horse in the mouth in the process.
“Well Sir, you see, ” she replied, “We value diversity above everything else, so we had reserved just two seats on this flight for non-Gujaratis. We’d been waiting in vain for long, but finally, you’re here, so we can close the bookings now.”
Thanking our lucky stars, we turned around, only to bump into a bunch of Gujaratis. We begged their pardon and hurried off, when suddenly, someone loudly called out to us from behind, “Bakhshi! Medha! Is that you?”
We turned around to find three of our oldest friends staring at us in wonder. Well, two friends, actually, since the third one was someone we did not know from Adam.
“Thakkar! Jiggy! Err….Guy we don’t know from Adam! What are you doing here?” I asked them in a surprised tone.
“This is my brother, Pratik,” Jiggy replied, introducing the unknown variable in the equation, “and we’re all going to Istanbul.”
“Ooooh, what a coincidence,” Medha chirped up, “so are we. Why don’t we all travel together. It’ll be damn good fun.”
“Brilliant,” Mitesh piped in, “Sab log mil ke chill karenge(We’ll all chill together).”
But something was still troubling me, so I asked them, “We just spoke yesterday. You didn’t mention this trip at all.”
And that was when Pratik spoke up for the first time, “Actually, we wanted to go to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Stadium, but there’s an Uber/Ola strike, so we had to take an auto….”