The taxi driver waiting outside the store where I was shopping stood on one foot, then the other. He shifted his weight again. He sighed. Slightly built with hooded eyes, in his skinny jeans and Western style tee shirt he looked like the recalcitrant teenager his actions resembled.
In a flash, I got it. All the pieces of what I'd seen and heard that day came together in my realization of this ridiculous situation.
I was being emotionally blackmailed by an Indian taxi-driver! Not even a taxi, really, but an Indian three wheeler which is a bit like a lawnmower shaped
like a motorcycle, with three wheels and a bench seat in the back, with the
whole thing surrounded by variousincarnations of plastic tarps. They are
universally black and New York taxicab yellow, but there
the resemblance to a New York cab ends. Colored like bumble bees,
they swarm across the traffic like them as
well. Riding in one feels like sitting on a lawn mower.
See link for video below…don't know how to move it yet, sorry!
It was rather ironic to be "sight-seeing" in this contraption as its vinyl roof
knocked my sunglasses off my head when I sat up straight. The roof hung
over so I had to slump in my seat to look out.
My first driver had been fine. Somehow the fee of 100 rupees
($1.50 US or 1 British pound) became 250 by the time I paid,
but the amount was hardly worth arguing about. He had
taken me to the scenic attractions of Fort Cochin–the
Portuguese-Indian museum, the Dutch museum, a couple
of churches where he also took my picture.
Added to those attractions were various stops that seemed
quite as regular. The first of these was a huge three story
shop with jewelry and small knick knacks and larger treasures
on the first floor, a floor full of carpets on the second, and
large antiques on the third floor. I immediately fell in love with
a large lion (only 55 kilos, Madame, and we ship it to the nearest
port included) while I sat trying to cool off in the air conditioned
shop and drank the cold water they kindly provided me with.
The taxi driver told me to look, which I did for a long time,
but not buy anything. I was to come back to buy later.
Having already spent my whole treasures budget in Mumbai,
I was not in danger of buying anything else of any size,
though that did not prevent me from falling in
love with the lion.
There were a series of other stops, all at larger stores
that featured collections of antiques. At the
second one I was told to go in and take pictures
and then come out again. I supposed he did not
wish to wait as long as he had while I was gazing at my lion.
As we toured the whole island, we passed some interesting
areas that had open stalls withgoods prominently displayed.
I wanted to walk around and look at them in slower motion.
My memory told me it was just a short walk from the ferry,
where I instructed my first driver to drop me off, but a short
walk (could it really have been only .4 kilometers or a quarter of a
mile?) got really hot really fast in the 80+% humidity, 80+ degrees,
with my camera with its lens and water bottle slung over my shoulder.
Another bumble bee was passing and I stopped him. "How much?"
"Fifty rupees (75 cents US) for an hour." Definitely worth the ride at that price!
"If you like me you can pay me more."
I wonder what that demand is going to look like, I said to myself.
I instructed him to drive straight down the road I'd seen with the
other driver. Partway there, without any instruction from me,
he turned abruptly off to the right. He was clearly operating on
some agenda which I was not privy to.
"What are you doing?" i demanded. "I said go straight."
He pulled a U-turn, but in retrospect I realize that even then
he was seething. This ride was not going as he wished it to,
though I had no idea why at that time.
Soon enough we came to the area of open market stalls and shops
that I'd seen earlier.
"Stop here!" I told him.
"Madame, you do not want to shop here. You want to go to a
department store. The things here will fall apart in 2 months.
Things in a department store are guaranteed!"
A guarantee from a shop in Kerala, India, is akin to an insurance
policy in my books. You might spend money based on what it
promises to pay, but the promised payment seldom materializes.
Furthermore, if I buy something that I know is cheap and I enjoy
it for a while and then it falls apart, who cares? And I trust myself
enough to know when something will quickly fall apart.
"I'm stopping here anyway." She who pays the piper calls the tune,
I figured, and he was a cheap piper.
He parked the three wheeler and followed me about at a discreet
distance, silently sulking all the way. I walked one direction browsing
the shops, and then the other.
Hope always springing eternal, he hoped I would hop back into his cab
when I returned to it and was displeased that I walked past it in the
Instinctively, I had found Jewtown, the most interesting district
on the island and home of many interesting antique and other shops.
And not a department store in sight.
What I did see, however, were clean, clear, nicely designed signs
informing the public that some people would recommend tourists
not shop in their shops, guiding their clients instead to the larger
stores which paid a commission.
The information seemed somehow valuable, and I filed it away
for future reference.
I found a silk dress I liked in Jewtown, and there was a 20 minute wait
while alterations so it would fit me were made. It was during that time
that I noticed my taxi driver lounging against the outside of the shop,
while I sat inside. I was over the hour, but I figured I
could afford the additional 50 rupees charge I was incurring.
As I waited, I realized how irritated he was, and how desperately
he wanted me to get how irritated he was–while not breeching the
societal normals of obsequiousness that Indians in the tourist sector,
anyway, have developed
to a fine science. He radiated his upset without saying
a word nonetheless.
I checked my watch (i.e. my cell phone) and realized I had to get
back to the ferry. I told him that.
"Madame, just for a friend, do me a favor and stop in this shop.
You do not have to buy anything."
I was shopped out. The last thing I wanted to do was go inside
another hot enclosed space, but I humored him. I walked inside.
The place smelled terrible. It was clearly the smell of something
intentionally chosen, though I did not recognize it. It made
the smell of new age bookstore incense seem like manna from heaven.
I walked around, was of course invited to go upstairs, and walked out,
over the protests of the owners and the taxi driver. I got in the taxi.
"Take me to the ferry."
When I got to the ferry, all I had was a 500 rupee note, having given
all my change to one of the merchants in Jewtown (and getting 10
rupees off the price in lieu of having
My taxi driver friend did not have change either. Clearly I was intended
to give him the whole 500 rupees ($7.50 US) but after his silent theatrics
I had no intention of doing so. I started searching around for a store
to buy a bottle of water or something else that would give me the change.
As I walked away from the taxi, another guy magically
appeared, wallet open, providing change for the 500 rupee note.
I gave him 200 rupees and considered that quite generous for 2 hours'
of barely working.
Although my phone said it was 4:17, the 4:20 ferry was about to pull out
when i walked up. Was I ever glad I didn't linger in the stinky shop!
Chalk another victory up to following my
Where's the relationship lesson in this? What is emotional blackmail,
Emotional blackmail is when someone takes the position: "I'm upset,
it's your fault, you have to change." Obviously it can occur in close
relationships. The blackmailer is betting that the person being blackmailed
values the relationship enough to change their behavior to please the blackmailer.
The prospect of receiving it from an Indian taxi driver amuses me no end. He
seriously thought I was going to change doing what I chose with one of my
precious days off to make him happy? Just because he wanted me to?
The guy was seriously delusional.