The cab hailing app says Harinder will be there in three minutes. And he is. He taps his phone smartly and asks if we shall proceed. I nod. “Go onn sttrait for ttwo killometers,” the lady in his phone twangs. Harinder is chatty. “Arre wah, sirji, what is this gol building?” he asks. It’s the Parliament. “Ah, even bigger, what’s this?” he wonders. Rashtrapati Bhawan. Is he new to Delhi, I ask? “Yes, sirji, came the day before yesterday from Hoshiarpur. My brother asked me if I want to drive a taxi. I said why not.”
I would always be filled with envy whenever I saw the sequence in a Hollywood film noir when on a rain-drenched night the hardboiled gumshoe dodging the hoodlums would hail a taxi, give a chit of paper to the driver and ask him to hurry. In India, it is unthinkable. First, there will be no taxi. If you found one, he would refuse. If all went well, chances are the cab driver would ask the chasing hoodlums for directions when you gave him the chit with the address. But Google Maps takes the cabbie’s ignorance streets ahead. Harinder, for instance, could be driving in Boston or Bosnia.