A Travellerspoint blog

Taxi! Taxi!

sunny 29 °C

Writing about our taxi-cum-time machine in Mysore got us thinking about the numerous cars we’ve ridden in since our arrival. The first thing that always happens is that the driver pulls into the nearest gas station and demands payment so that he can fill up. Petrol is $1.40, (90pence) a litre, and has jumped 10% since we arrived – causing two recent taxi strikes and a fare hike starting January 12th.
Here’s a heads-up for anyone thinking of visiting India. Most Indian taxi drivers are lunatics who constantly play chicken with other road users: they overtake in the path of oncoming vehicles and on blind bends; they take delight in forcing smaller vehicles off the road; they drive the wrong way on dual-carriageways or U-turn into the face of speeding traffic; they constantly blare their horns; they talk incessantly on cellphones; they consider “Keep Left” signs to be political slogans best ignored; they always say they know where they are going – yet never do; they never ever have any change; and they will always want to stop at a “very special museum” that you just know will be a thinly disguised store selling touristy trinkets, sarees, silks and carpets. We can be exceedingly obdurate in our refusal to be lured into such money-pits, but we are occasionally waylaid by a particularly friendly driver.
And then there are the unauthorized side-trips that can be unexpectedly interesting, like the joss-stick factory in Mysore and the sugar cane plantation on the road to visit a temple at Belur.

These women each make 6,000 incense sticks a day to earn a few dollars…
Firstly they coat a thin bamboo stick with a mixture of gum and charcoal and then roll it in coal dust…
The sticks are then dusted with coloured powders and impregnated with aromatic oils …
The incense sticks are beautiful and have a wonderful fragrance – unlike the conditions in which these women work.
The hands of the joss-stick workers are permanently stained black by the coal dust, but these sugar-cane workers are blackened all over…
An ancient 2 stroke engine spewing black smoke drives a mill to squeeze out the juice from the cane…
Then the liquid is boiled for four hours in a massive steel pan, 15 feet in diameter, using the squeezed out canes as fuel.
As the mixture cools the raw sugar crystallizes and is formed into balls for sale.

We got the hard-sell at the joss-stick factory and caved, but Hamid, the driver who sidetracked us into the sugar cane plantation, had his own interest at heart and blackmailed us into buying him a bottle of fresh cane juice – sometimes you just can’t win.

Posted by Hawkson 20:22 Archived in India Tagged transportation

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Taxi drivers are a hardy street-smart lot. It's a good thing for passengers that it never snows there (it doesn't does it?).

Working conditions are really grim - I wonder who makes the profits on the josticks?

by Janet

Great story! I wonder how many generations they are away from something as liberating as a wheelchair taxi. Almost everytime I take my mom out in one it has an Indian driver and on the back plate of every cab along with the graphic identifying it as wheelchair taxi is the word MAHADEV - I recently learned that this is the name of an Indian goddess providing protection. I suggest you try to find cabs with that label! BTW my mom's cabbies are constantly on cell-phones, despite the fact that it is now illegal!

by Tom Whalley

I wonder who has the ugliest lungs--the women from coal dust; the machine operator from diesel exhaust; or the stoker from sugar cane ash.
I presume a WCB equivalent doesn't exist in India.

by R and B

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