The toughest place to be . . .

[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.

8 thoughts on “The toughest place to be . . .”

  1. I watched this episode and found it rather fascinating. Mr McQueen came across as an interested and kind chap, who seemed to learn a lot during his time in Mumbai, and not all about driving his taxi!

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  2. Yes it was fascinating to watch a cynical London cabbie realise that many people’s lives doing the same job are far, far worse.

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  3. I also watched this episode, and it was very interesting to see how the lives of people who do the same job are so different depending on where they were born or live.
    Perhaps no matter how bad a time we think we are having in our jobs, there’s probably someone much worse off somewhere in the world.

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  4. I’m from Australia and have just viewed your documentary. I found it inspiring, fascinating and it made me feel that I certainly have nothing to ever complain about again… Mason what a great experience for you and what a great down to earth Londoner you are. You seem like a real ‘good bloke’ as us aussies would say….I know this experience has no doubt changed the way you view life, as it has done to your viewers. I hope we’ll get to see you experience life as a cabi in other less fortunate parts of the world. It can be easy to take our lot for granted and watching shows such as these brings us back down with a thud and makes us realise how fortunate we really are. Thank you.

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