By Dushyant Shekhawat Feb. 07, 2020
What goes through the mind of an Uber driver who reports his passenger to the police for talking politics on the phone? “If eavesdropping on a private conversation and eating up the police’s time is what it takes to get one Tukde Tukde Gang member off the street, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Not all heroes wear capes. Some of us drive Ubers and bust the communists and anti-nationals hiding among Mumbai’s everyday folk. It’s not an easy job, but somebody has to do it. As the saying goes, “find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” and that’s a rule by which I’ve lived my life. While some people start driving Ubers to earn an income or find a way out of the unemployment crisis gripping the country, I took up the job so that I could keep an ear out for the conversations going on in my backseat. We all know back-benchers’ capacity for mischief, be it in the classroom or a private cab, and it’s my job to monitor it.
You can easily spot my Uber in traffic – it’s the one with the red paan stains on the driver’s side door and the Swachh Bharat sticker on the windshield. A phone-mount near the steering wheel holds my Chinese smartphone – not to accept rides, but so that I can read WhatsApp forwards from all my well-informed friends as soon as they pop up. It’s a nondescript vehicle; all the better to blend into the crowd and remain unnoticed. Until this week, when I finally got my chance to spring into action.
Honestly, I’d been feeling strong FOMO for the last couple of days. Three people in Delhi got the opportunity to take out their frustrations on anti-CAA protesters. After all, they had to pay heed to the “goli maro” diktat. Meanwhile, there I was – no bullets and no Urban Naxals to take aim at – just a hatchback with a questionable PUC certificate. I’d been hearing that there was a Tukde Tukde Gang at work for months (I told you, my friends on WhatsApp are very aware of goings-on), but I hadn’t been able to locate any members. I didn’t feel too bad about that, seeing as the Home Ministry has also been unable to find any themselves.
But then, I heard about a place called Mumbai Bagh. Now I know all about Shaheen Bagh in Delhi – a coven of paid protesters and traitors blocking off traffic and committing the heinous sin of eating biryani – and I knew it was a bad thing. Even putting my nationalism aside, another traffic snarl on the streets of Mumbai threatened my sanity as somebody who drives for a living. Speaking of which, I figured I could at least benefit from the surge pricing in the area until I managed to single-handedly rout this nest of seditious protesters at Mumbai Bagh.
These “gaddars” and “deshdrohis” looked just like ordinary Indians.
At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what a traitor was supposed to look like. PM Modi had said they could be “identified by their clothes”. I think he was implying something, but I admit I wasn’t able to read between his lines. Then, at Mumbai Bagh, I found my answer, and (pardon the clickbait) I was stunned!
These “gaddars” and “deshdrohis” looked just like ordinary Indians. There were students, women, photographers, reporters, and age was no bar. Any one of them could have booked a ride in my Uber before that day and I would have been none the wiser about just what kind of anti-national I had in my backseat. Luckily, they had done me the favour of self-identifying themselves by carrying signs, raising patriotic slogans, and singing the national anthem, as traitors these days do. It made my skin crawl to be around such folk, but history will remember that I held my ground and waited until I picked up a fare.
The fearsome communist wore a red scarf, and carried a dafli. I had never felt so threatened in my life. I managed to conceal my nerves, and off we went, to whichever destination this monster’s roving would take him to next.
Normally, a night drive in Mumbai is a relaxing experience. It’s the one time your ears aren’t being assaulted by the sounds of honking or metro construction – a rare opportunity to listen to some music in peace. But I chose not to turn on the tunes, instead using my trusty smartphone in its trusty phone-mount to record the conversation the communist was having on his phone. I didn’t follow what was being said, but I heard words like “India”, “Shaheen Bagh”, and “azaadi”. Gotcha!
I didn’t follow what was being said, but I heard words like “India”, “Shaheen Bagh”, and “azaadi”. Gotcha!
For the communist, I’m sure what happened next was a blur. I fooled him into thinking I was stopping at an ATM (as if a cab driver ever keeps change ready, idiot), when I was really calling the cops on him. Of course, the Delhi Police would have found the conduct of the Mumbai Police excessively light-handed, as they only questioned the communist for two hours before letting him go.
I gave my statement to the cops, and oddly enough, nobody thanked me for taking this menace off the streets. But I didn’t mind; if eavesdropping on a private conversation and eating up the police’s time is what it takes to get one Tukde Tukde Gang member off the street, then that’s what I’ll do.
I am the all-hearing Uber driver. And I may not be the hero this nation needs, but I’m certainly the hero this nation deserves.