“Sir, pay me a few bucks extra for tea” – said the taxi driver as he pulled down the road to let me alight.

“Look don’t!” Said I “The fares are already too high after the hike!”

“But babu, I am earning less than what I used to” The taxiwala mumbles as he grudgingly accepts whatever I pay him.

Goddamn cab drivers! First they will extort people with their outrageous rates and racing meters, and then they will have me believe that they are not earning more!

“But babu, I am earning less than what I used to”. Huh! That’s Sheer nonsense!

Unfortunately, this piece of sheer nonsense kept looping in my head all day. It just refused to go away no matter how much I tried. After a while I wasn’t even sure whether it indeed was nonsense or not! Oil prices have risen like crazy in the past few years. So has almost everything else. Did the hike compensate them? I had no way of knowing.

I knew how the taxi meters go, though most people in Kolkata will tell you that its better to simply ask how much than to try calculating from the meter. Some people think the current conversion system is a government conspiracy to hurt the self esteem among the proud middle class population in West Bengal by proving that they can’t even calculate simple taxi fares. Its supposed to be 25 bucks for the first two kms and 2.40 bucks for every additional quarter kilometer. Plus 1.20 buck for every 2 min 12 seconds of waiting time. Err???

Anyway, based on this knowledge and some other reasonable assumptions I did a little math or ball park estimate (see calculations below if you want to cross check or verify) : it told me that a cab driver earns on an average 200 bucks on his lucky days.

200 bucks a day amounts to 6,000 bucks a month. That’s what a taxi driver earns now. What about his earnings before the hike which happened in Nov, 2012? I found (taking into account diesel prices back then) that at that time he used to earn approx the same 200 bucks per month.

Thus having established that “But Babu, I am earning less than before” is an exaggeration, I realized that his lifestyle must have taken a severe beating since the hike thanks to inflation. He is earning the same while prices have all gone over the roof. The fare hike has not compensated him at all!

So the next time I feel inspired to think how fast the taxi meter is, I guess I should instead think about how fast we all (taxiwala included) are going to hell instead.

Calculations: Assuming a taxi driver drives all day, say 8 hrs of total driving time, which is probably an overestimate and assuming he drives at 20 kmph on an average, he will drive a total of 160 km in a day. Let us say this is broken down into 16 journeys of 10 km each. For each journey he gets approx. 100 bucks. So his daily earning comes to 1600 bucks. How much does he spend on oil? Assuming a mileage of 9.4 kmpl (which I got from a car website) , he needs 17 l of oil for the day. That amounts to around 1000 bucks presently (diesel price is 58 bucks per liter). He needs to pay around 400 bucks to the owner of the cab. WHat’s left is 200 bucks.