ajit the driver

Every morning I’d call the local taxi stand for my ride to Gurgaon. And every morning they’d send a different driver to pick me up. One of them was Ajay. Another one was Ajit.

Ajit was wild, square-jawed, terrifying behind the wheel, with a perpetual scowl on his twenty-year-old face. He spent his first day as my driver shouting gleefully at me the entire ride home: “Me you Hindi! You me English! Straight! Seedha! Left! Baayein! Right! Daayein! You request me every day, I you Hindi you me English! You my only friend!”

When we would reach a breakthrough in vocabulary—“Cow! Guy!”—he would get excited and begin dancing in his seat, taking both hands off the wheel to point upwards in punctuation of his hip thrusts, closing his eyes in ecstasy and throwing his head back and somehow managing to open his eyes and grab the wheel and slam on the brakes at exactly the right instant to avoid a herd of guyain trotting casually down the road.

One day, half-drunk on some after-work beers, I got the bright idea to teach him curse words. “Choothia! Bastard!” I told him. “Lund! Dick! Gaand meh le lo! Kiss my ass!”

Ajit laughed and howled and danced and screamed and repeated my words in deeply-accented shrieks, each new abuse eliciting an equally elaborate reaction from him. And then, suddenly, he grew quiet and contemplative. He turned to me, looking me in the eyes as I sat in the back seat with the car still barreling down MG Road. “You, you wife. Lie bed?”

I knew what he was getting at. I also knew that he took Jenny on errands from time to time, and I was uncomfortable with the idea of him glowering at her in the rear-view mirror with this prurient fact confirmed in his mind. I played dumb, hoping he’d get the hint. “Kya? Huh? I don’t understand. Tati! Shit!”

Ajit refused to be drawn back into the vocabulary lesson. He screwed up his face in concentration, searching his mind for a phrase he desperately wanted to find. “You, wife! Bed! Lie bed? You—” And then he made a gesture I didn’t recognize but understood immediately, pounding his hands together with an unmistakable crudeness of rhythm. “You, wife?”

What else could I say? “I suppose so, yes.”

Ajit howled and danced his victory dance, honking and weaving and pointing his fingers towards the heavens in celebration of my good fortune.

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16 responses to “ajit the driver

  1. I’ve long been under the impression that “chutiya/choothia” was “the c-word.”

    Yes? No?

  2. Your vocabulary of the finest words that hindi has to offer is, may i say, unbelievable!

  3. I aim to please, bhenchoad.

  4. @Adam: The best definition of the word can be found on urbandictionary 😀
    Definition #3 partly answers your question.
    The closest equivalent term in (American) English would be ‘douchebag’.

  5. “to point upwards in punctuation of his hip thrusts” – what a fascinating description of bhangra. I’ll always think of punctuation when I see it from now on.

  6. This is so weird. I dont get it. Why would he want to know about relations between you and your wife?

    Is this something you’ve had to answer in some other scenario?

  7. Dips: my guess is that he was living vicariously through me. He was unmarried and it’s not like there’s casual dating for Delhi taxi drivers or in Rajasthani villages. Since we had headed into taboo ground with the bad language, I guess he figured we could go all the way, so to speak.

  8. Gand me le lo literally means ‘take it up the @$$’. Thanks for bringing memories back from India. Kudos for blogging. lol

    Choothiya is not just simply a bastard. A douche(/douche bag) or in my personal interpretation it is very similar to ‘Cabron'(Central american Spanish).

  9. As a kid growing up in India and just figuring out differences in class and socio-economic status, I wasn’t comfortable with the way people lower down the ladder were treated even by my family (and they were treated much better than by most others). But it didn’t take too long for me to figure out that treating them as equals did not earn me more respect from them, but gave them license to take liberties that they otherwise wouldn’t dream of and probably didn’t do with their peers. Your experience is a perfect example of this.

  10. shut up anon, you’re a douche bag

  11. Now I’ll be in trouble, my two months in Hauz Khas and I never learnt any of them, but I’ll know them now for going back next year. Dhanyavad!

  12. Johnny Cash 2.0, whether or not you like it, this was one person’s experience. It is human nature to take advantage. Did you ever have a substitute teacher in school? The kids take every advantage of the substitute’s ignorance in order to get away with things that they otherwise would/could not. The tourist industry is another example (no matter where you go)- those in the market try to get exorbitant prices out of you because they think you don’t know better. Anyways, just chill. We all feel compassion for the poor and downtrodden of India, but they are still just as human as the rest of us. And, therefore, some of them are jerks, too.

  13. nice first blog post..i think i’ll keep reading..

  14. Awsum post 🙂 .. will keep following .. and if you want to know more about Indian Taxi Drivers more, read “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga

  15. 1.5 Generation Indian

    New Yorkers in New Delhi, eh? Interesting! I look forward to the book. I am a 1.5 Generation Indian (i.e., born in India, raised in the US, returned to India) and I can only see the world in New Delhi through the lens of a 1.5 GI. I wonder how different and how similar your and my perspectives would be?

  16. When we would reach a breakthrough in vocabulary—“Cow! Guy!”—he would get excited and begin dancing in his seat, taking both hands off the wheel to point upwards in punctuation of his hip thrusts, closing his eyes in ecstasy and throwing his head back and somehow managing to open his eyes and grab the wheel and slam on the brakes at exactly the right instant to avoid a herd of guyain trotting casually down the road.

    Dave, did that really happen as described, or is it a little representative fiction? Still, the idea of a driver going [i]balle balle[/i] while driving is pretty funny.

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