Standing outside a famous watering hole in South Mumbai, 50-something Jokhan Chandrakishore Dubey smokes a bidi as he waits for the clock to strike 1.30 am. He is waiting for the slew of customers coming out after the bar downs its shutters, as that is exactly when his day starts.
When Dubey had moved to Mumbai from his native village in Uttar Pradesh some 30 years ago, he had a dream, just like all others who come to the city: to make a name for himself.
Today, he can proudly grin from ear to ear and say that he has, in some way, achieved his goal. His taxi is one of the most sought after ones for every tired soul who drink themselves silly after a day’s hard work, and want ‘Dubeyji’ or ‘uncle’ as he is fondly called, to ferry them home.
“I always want Dubeyji to take me home because I don’t need to worry whether I will reach home safely or not if he is around. The first time you take his cab and direct him to your home, you don’t need to worry ever again. He remembers the direction to every regular customer’s house — be it in Bandra or Thane,” says one of his customers.
His phone starts ringing every evening, with his customers asking him whether he is working the night, because they could then plan their nights accordingly.
“I make sure that I go back home while the local trains are still running if ‘uncle’ is not around. I know I can hop on to any other cab, but I just feel safer with him,” says a 23-year-old woman, who has just started working. Working at night, however, was not on Dubey’s agenda when he first moved to the city and started driving in 1985. He was to drive his uncle’s taxi, and the only time he got it was at night. The daytime traffic too was quite a botheration.
But he was quite disgruntled initially, he says, adding that he was apprehensive of how it would be like not being around his wife and son at night.
“Lekin phir, pyaar ho gaya raat ki shaher se,” he smiles.
As he talks about his work, he says, “Sab dekha hain maine.”
Prod him more and he elaborates: he has seen people break down after a bad day at work, or a fight with a fiance, friendships building step-by-step and elation after getting a new job or a promotion.
With the sea glistening amid the night lights of the skyscrapers, his taxi whooshes past carrying people experiencing different kinds of emotions every night. And the best part: he is always a part of the ups and downs of their lives. “Main bas khush hoon sabko sahi salaamat ghar pahuchake,” he concludes.
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