A 73-year-old woman took a tumble on Park Street after being pushed out of a taxi on Tuesday afternoon for getting into the vehicle without the driver’s nod.
Mamata Pandit and two friends of hers had apparently been refused by a dozen taxis before that, making them determined to get into the next one that came along even if the driver said no.
Mamata Pandit, who was pushed out of a taxi
When the elderly lady took the front passenger seat of taxi number WB 04A 9961, which like the others had refused to go to Gariahat, she was greeted by a left-arm jab so hard that she was flung onto the road.
Mamata, who got back into the car despite hurting her shoulder, lodged a complaint at Park Street police station when the driver stopped to tank up at the adjacent fuel station. The 73-year-old recounted her taxi torment to Metro the day after, coinciding with the rogue cabbie being granted bail.
One taxi after the other refused us a ride till Gariahat, and it was only around 5.30pm then. At least a dozen of them went by, some of them pointing to a sign saying “Garage” at the bottom of the windshield the moment they heard where we wanted to go.
After encountering taxi refusal for more than half an hour, I and my friends (both in their late forties) were beginning to feel helpless. So when the next cab slowed down, I assumed that this driver would be willing to go to Gariahat. But he was just as blunt as the others. ‘Hum Gariahat nahin jayega (I won’t go to Gariahat)’, he said.
I tried to explain to him that we were in a hurry but he wouldn’t listen. We even offered to pay him a few rupees more than the metered fare. He still wasn’t interested.
It was getting late and we were feeling exhausted in the heat, so the three of us decided to get into the taxi. I had heard that this was the only way to deal with the ill-mannered taxi drivers in Calcutta and now I knew why.
While my friends forced their way into the rear, I tried to take the front seat. The driver was hurling abuse at us. I opened the front door to get in and, to my horror, the driver raised his left arm and pushed me out with such force that I took a tumble. The driver tried to slam the door shut even as my friends screamed.
I stood up despite my right shoulder hurting and got in again. I asked the driver why he had pushed me and he kept hurling abuse, making me determined to teach the rogue a lesson. So when the taxi stopped at the fuel pump adjacent to Park Street police station and I saw a queue, it occurred to me that we could lodge a complaint immediately.
One of my friends, Rupa Maity, got off and ran into the police station to narrate the incident. An officer came out with her and asked the driver to come to the police station. He then suggested to me that I lodge a complaint against the driver.
I was amazed to hear the driver denying that he had pushed me off his taxi. He also told the police that he was done for the day and so had put up a board with the word “garage” on the windscreen. We did not see any such sign when we stopped this taxi.
It was around 8pm by the time we left the police station and we dropped our plan to go to Gariahat. A police officer hailed a taxi for me to return to my home at 55B Sambhunath Pandit Street. My friends took the same taxi to Kidderpore.
I was aware that commuters in this city face such harassment every day but I didn’t know that taxi drivers don’t spare anyone, not even a 73-year-old.