Getting out of Mumbai - harder than we thought
Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
115Trip End Mar 21, 2008
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Before we know it, our errand-running and chatting has brought us around to 5pm so we catch the bus back to our hotel to collect our bags. Rajesh had indicated that it should be about a 20 minute, 30 rupee rickshaw ride from our hotel to the bus pick-up point. Unfortunately our driver speaks no English and doesn't seem to have much local knowledge either. He starts by heading out in the wrong direction, something Jane spots immediately and our trusty compass confirms. Once he rights himself, it becomes clear that he knows the general area we are going to - Andheri - but has no idea of the specific location. As we don't speak the same language, I can only repeat the name of our destination, followed by a hopeful "okay?", to which he always responds with an unconvincing "ah, okay", followed by a couple of sentences of Hindi. This goes on and on, we keep seeing the same buildings over again as we go in circles and the driver is scratching his head more frequently. We realise that he won't understand our words but he might catch the tone of voice, so we start sounding upset and frustrated and throwing in a few hand gestures. Finally he stops to ask directions and, eventually, after an hour and 15 minutes, we get to the bus pick-up point.
We had followed Rajesh's advice and used the meter, and the driver has the nerve to try and charge us the full price, 150 rupees. Now, this isn't a lot of money, about $3.50 Canadian, but we refuse to pay that amount as a matter of principle. "No way!" we say firmly, "you drove us all over town. A 30 minute ride took you an hour and a quarter". Of course, we may as well have been suggesting that he stop by our place next time he's in Canada for all he understood, but when I offer him 50 rupees, he realises what's going on and starts yelling back at us. By this time, a small crowd of gawkers has formed. Gawkers in India appear instantly and in great numbers any time that anything remotely interesting occurs, and twice as fast if there are foreigners involved. They get right in close to the action and don't hesitate to offer their two rupees opinion. One of the gawkers speaks English so he happily acts as translator, probably because he knows this will fan the flames and provide a better spectacle. It makes arguing kind of funny because you say your bit with the appropriate level of passion and vigour, then you have to wait patiently while the translator repeats your argument into Hindi. This elicits either understanding nods or angry rebuttal from the crowd, then the driver says his bit, and so on. It seems like the ever-increasing crowd is starting to take our side and the young driver begins to feel the tide turning against him. In the interests of moving along, I offer a compromise of 100 rupees, which he reluctantly takes and we head off, leaving the gawkers to further analyse the events that just took place.