Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Curse of Kazeem

Or "The Longest 36 Hours" or "When good drivers turn bad".  Pick a title, they'll all work.

This is a doozy of a shot taken by our guide at the Taj Mahal.  We're thrilled with it.  Thrilled.

This is what we did after our first traumatic day.  If we'd known what we were in for the next day, it would have been big bots

This is a story of how we hired a driver to take us to the Taj Mahal in Agra.  the chapter preceeding this could be all about how we found him, after many attempts to get to the Goverment Tourist Bureau (the only place to book good drivers through in Delhi) and how we never quite got there, getting taken to fake offices, having fights with rickshaw drivers, avoiding scams, trying to get a train ticket (the queue at the ticket office was hours long), having arguments with the Husband as we thrust maps and guidebooks in each others faces.  However that chapter I'll save for another time.

This one is all about Kazeem and his crappy old car which picked us up early to take us to Agra.  We had a trip planned with him from Delhi to Agra and back to the airport.  Sounded good on paper (labelled Government Tourist Bureau.) but the reality was different.  Fact was the first 12 hours were just fine, he drove, we chatted, we learned about his muslim life and life in India, the 2 hour trip to Agra crawling along with many more hours sitting in his crappy car ticking over.  He dropped us with a prearranged guide who took us through the sites including the Taj.  All awesome.  Until...the guide asked to be paid.  "nah uh buddy, all paid for", "then you tip me (insert ridiculous amount)?" Awkwardness.  No friggin way.  We pay him reasonable amount.  He snarls and is gone.  Leaving us with Kazeem.  We were over him by this stage and just wanted to be alone, so said our goodbyes for the evening and made a plan for the next day which would be an early pick up and a detour to an old fort before a late afternoon flight.  In other words we had oodles of time to kill, especially as we'd paid extra for the toll fees so we could take the brand spanking new freeway back to Delhi.

He arrives to pick us up, wearing the same clothes as the day before, I didn't see an overnight bag so I'm guessing he may have slept in his (crappy) car.  We chat, he says the roads are so busy today so best not to detour but he could show us some lovely MARBLE FACTORIES on the way back to Delhi.  We started with a "no thanks, we're not shopping our bags are too full" to after more insisting by Kazeem "NO Kazeem, we are NOT interested in any (friggin) marble factories!"  Looking miffy, he stops for breakfast (we are 3 minutes further on from our hotel).  We wanted to say - why the hell didn't you have breakfast before you picked us up, but at that stage were too polite.  So we waited for 45 minutes in some hot carpark while he slowly had his breakfast, and then headed to the loo for a dump (another 10 minutes).  We drive through the cesspit that is Agra.  he stops at a petrol station, turns and asks my husband for a "loan", he has no money to fill up his car. WTF? More argy bargy, and he gets a stern "Kazeem, you must have money, we don't have to pay for petrol".  Looking pissed, he fills his car and pays for it.  

And then reluctantly he heads to the freeway, still suggesting a quick stop at a bloody MARBLE friggin factory.  By now, we were like "Do you know what Kazeem, just take us straight to the airport", in other words, this relationship is crumbling before our eyes and we'd prefer to sit for 4 hours in an airport than sit in this car with you.  He nervously edges on to the empty freeway.  After the absolute chaos of the roads we've been driving on, this is a little piece of freeway heaven.  We breathe a sigh of relief , we're going to whizz up to Delhi on this.  Kazeem slows his car down from 100kms to 80kms, gripping the steering wheel nervously, and muttering comments about "..not safe...very dangerous....ruins tyres....".  It clicks, he's never driven on this road before.  He's scared.

And then 20kms or so on we pull up at the deserted toll booths, just us and the toll attendants.  He turns off the engine and turns to my husband "Now you pay." "Pay what?" says my husband.  "You pay the toll.  I have no money, I spent it on the petrol."

We were being held hostage on a freeway.

"No way Kazeem, we've paid for this you ring your boss and he'll tell you.  Do it. ".  And I could bore you with what played out over the next 15 minutes as we waited at the toll booth in a stand off in the crappy car.  But it was pretty much more of the same.  Until with a huge sigh, he opened his wallet and paid the tolls.

After that followed silence.  For hours and hours.  My neck was sore from looking out the window rather than at Kazeem.  We both felt bubbles of hysterical laughter threatening.  But our bags were in the back and we were stuck on an isolated freeway travelling at 80kms an hour.  The Husband had asked him why he was driving so slowly and Kazeem did the old " dangerous, so bad for your tyres..." spin again.

More silence.

A couple of fake calls to his boss, talking about his tyres.  A stop in the middle of a freeway and a concerned look at his tyres.  More sighing.  More silence.
And then we left the empty freeway and entered traffic pandaemonium again.  And Kazeem speeded up to 120km and weaved and honked his way into impossible gaps - he was on home turf.

Still silence.  Kazeem then realised that his tip was at serious risk, and started back tracking, being friendly to us and talking about his excellent service.  We pulled up at the airport, and once the Husband saw I was out safely with the bags and through the security at the airport, he told Kazeem a thing or two about service, and why he would not be getting a generous any tip from us.

And then the Husband bolted.  And we started laughing hysterically.

Absolute true story.


  1. You had to wait while he did a poo????

  2. You really do have to pack your sense of humour when you travel.

  3. He must make a killing from less confident tourists!

  4. Oh no, how dodgy is that! Good on you guys for standing your ground though. The story would have been far less amusing had you given in and handed over everything he asked for! It's stories like these that make me nervous about travelling. I'm sure hubby and I would be too scared to face a stand-off with a foreign man in a foreign country.
    Thanks for the laugh x

  5. Lise that is GOLD!! what a friggin good travel story (not at the time) That's what travelling to foreign countries is all about!!! LOVE it. xxx