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Taxi driver
Friday 9th December 2011, Mumbai.
Mumbai was the most colourful, noisiest, smelliest, dirtiest and friendliest place I'd ever been. The poverty is upsetting, but I was amazed at how smiley everyone was, despite sharing the streets with with goats, holy cows, one eyed dogs and massive fucking rats. It made me feel guilty and ashamed of what I have. And it made me wonder if I really needed anything more than my own plot on the road.
Wasim drives an ancient Fiat taxi, pimped with a red and blue paisley carpet. He was parked outside our hotel and got it started by tinkering under the bonnet with a spanner. He smiled, jumped in and started to talk. He didn’t stop talking for the next 5 hours. Wasim had been driving a cab for 8 years and before that he'd spent 2 years as a professional footballer in Calcutta before a leg fracture caused him to stop playing and seek his fortune in Mumbai. He worked for Pepsi for 6 months but didn’t like it. Wasim has 5 younger brothers and 2 younger sisters and sends most of his wages back to his parents in Uttar Pradesh. His father was a farmer but can't work any more for some reason.
On the way to the National Gallery of Modern Art (closed for 2 weeks between exhibitions) I decided to give Wasim some money and settled on 30,000 rupees (about 400 quid). As I'd come to learn, it was important to offer the right amount of money; a big figure can sometimes cause more harm than good, but I still wanted to give enough to make a difference to Wasim's life. £1000 is perfect for the UK, but in other parts of the world I get a little lost and end up playing it by ear. I told Wasim to pull over at the hole in the wall.
As I got back into the cab I noticed Wasim staring at my girlfriend's legs and when we stopped to go see the amazing Victoria Station, he did the same again. He kept looking round to check the traffic and each time he'd try and steal a glance up her dress. It started to really piss me off and I thought about not giving him the money. But he was a young man with a hot girl in the back of his cab; I reckon I would have done the same. I leaned forward and handed him the money before I changed my mind. Wasim almost drove into the next taxi. He was so happy that I thought he might stop talking for a minute, but he didn’t.