Vantage point

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Abdulbhai presents

Came across two startling revealations yesterday, both thanks to Abdulbhai, my taxi driver for the day. First one was stereotype-shattering and the second one was hilarious in a dark sort of way.

While waiting for a colleague of mine to turn up, Abdulbhai asked me if I knew about a "Ciscowaala course". Keep in mind that this was a taxi driver, whose monthly earnings would be at the most Rs 5000. I said, yes, I knew about the Cisco course, assuming he meant the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Administrator) course. He asked if it guarantees a job, and I said, yes, if you do well in the course, a job is more or less guaranteed. He then asked me how expensive it would be. I really have no idea, so i told him I would find out. I asked him whom he was asking the info for, and this is what he said -

"For my daughter. She is a very smart girl. Always gets more than 80%. Just finished her HSC. I am expecting big things from her. My son was never that smart. Only got 60% or so. So i got him a taxi to drive as well. But my daughter is really smart. We want her to become a computer expert. As long as the fees is not more than fifty thousand, i should be able to afford it."

I was pleasantly aghast. Imagine, a barely-literate taxi driver, that too a Muslim, preferring to invest money in his daughter's studies, while his son drove a taxi. A parent who judged the worth of their child by the potential and aptitude rather than their sex. Really heartening

A while later, we were waiting at a signal when some little kids came up to my window, begging for some change. Abdulbhai shoo-ed them away and said to me "You know, begging is a very well organised thing in Mumbai?". I said yes, I was aware. but what he revealed next showed the level to which begging has been professionalised. Apparently, the beggars at the signals near the International Airport know some English as well as Arabic phrases and target foreigners using the same. And apparently, the really smart beggars are "deputed" at the singal, because they can carry off the English or Arabic convincingly!

Later on, when I was telling this to Sunil, he informed me that he ahd seen some beggar kids standing in the queue for Foreign Exchange outside the airport with dollar bills in their hands!!!

Two totally different sides of the enterprise and the determination of Indians to better their lives. Both of them, courtesy Abdulbhai.