The other day, I was watching Hollywood movie ‘Transporter’. In the movie, an Audi stops and the lead actor Jason Statham steps out looking all dashing in black blazer and white shirt. He was looking lean and polished, he was actually slaying in the dark sun shades. Two minutes in the movie, I realised he is a ‘driver’. So basically, he is the transporter who moves important packages around but the brass tacks is that he is a driver. My mind flipped and the next thought was, ‘Which driver looks like this? This handsome? This fine and polished? Are they completely out of their mind?’
Couple of months later, I had fortune of travelling to Cannes, Paris. It was a very exhausting 9 hrs long direct flight from Bangalore to Paris and then a connecting flight to Cannes. By the time I came out of Cannes airport I was pretty much a zombie. We were waiting outside the airport for a taxi with 4 heavy luggage, when I saw a Mercedes-Benz GLA arrive, the family in front of us boarded that. In couple of seconds Audi A8 arrived, the door opened and out came the ‘Transporter’, the driver actually looked liked Jason Statham from the movie. He even dressed like him. We boarded the taxi for our hotel, I am actually hesitant to write Audi A8 as taxi but taxi it was. Entire journey I kept thinking, may be he got inspired from Jason and is a big fan and thus he dresses like him.
Next day, we called for Uber cab and guess what even the Uber driver was as chic as the previous day’s Audi driver. First day at Cannes and I realised that people around whether they were driver, shop keeper, guard, or anybody else, dressed well, groomed well and spoke well. Everybody smiled at you and was courteous. It was an uneasy feeling, in the same world how can people be so different? Back in India, roads are packed, driver sweat and chew pan masala, cabs are stinking with various odours, I till date can’t figure out what that odour is. Some of the drivers are in the habit of putting dirty towels on the seats to protect the car seats from getting dirty no matter you get some skin infection. So, I was in a very unfamiliar territory where every thing looked artificially perfected. Artificial to me because I was not used to so much beauty and courtesy. For me filth, rudeness and crassness was a part of life so I never expected more, may be because I thought more does not exist. And here was the world, offering so much more, obviously at a price.
A week at Cannes and we packed our bags for Rome. I had never been to Rome before and all I could dream and think was about beauty Rome would be. My oldest memory or you can say knowledge of Rome is from the movie , ‘Roman Holiday’. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck took me around Rome and I had it entrenched in my brain, even back then I knew I will some day visit it in person. That day came, we landed at the airport, dragged our 4 luggage behind us and got out of airport to explore wonder Rome is.
As soon as we got out of airport, warm gush of wind welcomed us and with that came screaming noise of taxi vendors/drivers. They were all talking to us at the same time loudly, animatedly trying to grab our attention. They were trying to lure us to book their ride. We took a cab, the driver was an Italian, a very excited, angry Italian. He drove us at a crazy speed and spoke through out the journey in excitement / angst, I really couldn’t figure that out since it was mostly Italian. At one point, he yelled, ‘Hold your baby or she will fall out of the front window (we were travelling with our 2.5 yr old daughter).’ I was more amused than angry by his concern and bad driving skills. It happened to be a Sunday and there was a marathon scheduled so the roads were blocked and traffic re-directed. He was so hassled with this temporary arrangement that he abused the Italian government, system, people, roads, and who so ever else he could. His behaviour and actions seemed so familiar. Finally, I felt at home!