07.11.2010 - 07.11.2010 26 °C
It was coming home from work the other day when something odd happened that really made me understand what it means to live in Dhaka. It was exceptionally odd precisely because it wasn’t.
I hailed a CNG, a three-wheeler taxi vehicle, told the guy where I wanted to go and then asked the price: nothing odd in that. He said, ‘there’s a meter isn’t there?’
Here’s the part that very, very Dhaka: my immediate reaction, the unplanned thought that springs into your mind, the honest reaction was, ‘and what kind of scam is that?’ I nearly didn’t accept the ride since in two years I don’t believe any CNG driver has ever used the meter before (they all have them).
In the end I got in, still quite suspicious but unable to work out what the scam could be. I wondered if he had friends waiting down the road to hijack me: hijacking happens in Dhaka but honestly, it’s a pretty safe place. I was so concerned about this guy following the intended system I took my mobile phone out of my shirt pocket and put into the back of my trousers, thinking the hijackers should they come might miss it there.
I watched intently the route he was taking to make sure of no detours. I tried to see through the rear-vision mirror if his face was of a lunatic. And I questioned him, ‘are you new in Dhaka?’ He could after all be simply naïve. ‘I’ve been here for twelve years,’ he said.
We arrived safely at home and I paid the meter rate with a little tip, a normal courtesy; but still somewhat cheaper than the usual non-meter negotiated fare. I’d really longed to ask him what on earth possessed him to use the taxi meter, but thought better of it: it’s really something to know that in this Mega-City there’s at least one CNG driver who will use the thing.
In Dhaka anything is possible: even using the meter.