[I] was contacted last year by the BBC inviting me to apply for the new series of ‘toughest place to be’, in which they planned to take a London cabbie out of his (or her) comfort zone and place them in a city where driving could be best described as challenging.
After reading the e-mail my wife and I speculated upon which city the hapless cabbie would find themselves trying to earn a living. We both concluded that one of the most chaotic cities in the world was Mumbai.
So when the programme was televised recently it was no surprise to find London cabbie Mason McQueen travelling to India’s most populous city.
Mason’s host and mentor was Pradeep Sharma who lives in a tiny two-bedroom house earning less than £10 a day driving his cab.
It wasn’t long before Mason finds driving on some of the busiest and most congested streets in the world. Far worse than London’s, in sweltering heat in a vehicle without air conditioning, he managed to carefully avoided the sacred cows, get his passengers on side when getting lost and did all this with good humour.
But the most touching part of this documentary was the change in Mason’s perception to life. Starting out by complaining about life in London from his Epping home his first reaction upon seeing the slum that Pradeep and his extended family live is one of horror.
Later he is shown other cabbies who have come from the countryside to make a better life for themselves living in squalor 6-8 in a room sending their money home to a family they see only twice a year.
But the life changing event was seeing a young mother with her children living under a flyover, sleeping on the central reservation of the busy road as they try to scratch a living by selling homemade brushes.
The documentary showed us that how bad we may think our job are, and all London cabbies have those moments, others doing the same job have a much harder time.
At the end of the programme Mason is seen in a cabbies hut trying to raise money to send back to India.