Tuesday, September 25, 2012
This is a guest post by a person who has seen many sides of life too often, Iftikhar Ashraf.
Date was 21st September 2012 and day was Friday; the air was full with anger, Muslims in every part of the world were protesting against the anti-Islam film and the blasphemous caricatures drawn by the controversial French magazine, Charlie Hebdo.
In the protesting world, Kashmir was no exception, Syed Ali Shah Geelani had asked the people to show their displeasure through peaceful protests after Friday Prayers. But the government also wanted to show its displeasure and it didn’t want its displeasure to go unnoticed, which they made sure by enforcing an undeclared curfew and blocking all the mobile services, even not sparing the mobile internet services (gprs, wireless internet etc).
I had a flight to catch for New Delhi in the evening, seeing the mood of the government and the restrictions they had enforced, I was not sure whether I would be able to catch my flight. In order to make an attempt to catch my flight, I called up the only Call Cab Service providers, Snow Cabs and asked them to pick me up at 1:30 from Lal Chowk . They said they will be calling me back, confirming my booking and will give me the mobile number of the driver; but soon after making that call all the mobile services were suspended and I was left in a lurch. Thankfully the cab came and half an hour well in advance. It was good to know that in Kashmir one can rely on one of the service providers. Finally I was at the airport, well before time and so was everybody else. Our flight took off before the scheduled time.
After collecting my luggage from Delhi Airport, took a slip for prepaid taxi and was assigned the Taxi parked at No 27. Came out walking to no. 27 and there was no taxi parked there, waited for a while but not a single incoming was parking at 27. Every incoming taxi was either getting parked around 27 or zoomed ahead of it. I started to wonder how come they were able to recognise that I was a Muslim, after all I was not sporting a beard, was not wearing a pathani nor was I wearing any head gear. I wanted to shout that Yes we are protesting but that doesn't mean you will deny me a service for which I have already paid!
After some time had passed and I had started to get anxious, a taxi driver came to me and said that I should stand at a distance or to come forward, else no taxi will come at my place. So taking his advice I stood for a while at a distance but still there came no taxi. Finally I went up to a cop who was managing these taxi stand, he assured that I'll get a taxi soon and asked to wait there. He finally got me a taxi parked at 27 and I walked into it. This is how my trauma of getting a taxi got over.
But the story doesn't end here; after boarding the taxi, it seemed that the taxi driver wanted to cry as if he had been cheated into betraying his cause, cause of not giving me lift! He started banging his hands, disappointingly, on the steering and couple times even his head. Now I got worried about my safety, I thought that this driver will take his revenge on me, he will mug me and drop me on the road. So I began to think what I should do, could think of nothing but clicking a photograph of the of the window pane with the taxi number written on it, the least I could use my mobile for when the service provider with the tagline Vadaa Rahaa (I Promise) didn't keep its Vadaa (Promise) of converting my phone into a post-Paid thus reducing my phone to just a 2MP camera outside valley.
When my destination started to approach, I started to breathe easy. Now I got some confidence and asked the driver whether he owned his taxi, to which he said no. Then I asked how did it work between the owner and him, he said that he had to pay Rs 150 on every trip from the airport no matter where the trip is and how much it is for. Then I asked him since when he was in line (waiting for his turn) at the airport, he said since 4 O'clock in the morning. So I asked that out of the Rs 270 I had paid for the trip, 150 will go to the owners pocket and he will have to manage gas and other expenses from RS 120, he with a gloom on his face said 'yes'. While getting out of the taxi at my destination I gave him Rs 10, he smiled a bit and said that may be the next passenger from the airport will pay him well. I smiled and said that the it is 'Hope' only that keeps the whole world ticking!