The Worst Chauffeur in India

 We wouldn't have been surprised to find our car up in a tree, like this one you pass on the way to the Mews at Udai Bilas Palace

We wouldn't have been surprised to find our car up in a tree, like this one you pass on the way to the Mews at Udai Bilas Palace

When we tried to leave Dungarpur, our driver was nowhere to be found. What ensued has become a story we can laugh about…now.

 

We had heard that you should expect the unexpected in India — especially when it comes to travel plans. We hadn’t experienced anything too egregious, our two-hour wait for a driver to Dungarpur aside.

Well, that was nothing compared to what happened when we tried to leave Dungarpur.

George recognized the word “police.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” he said.

The day started off pleasantly enough. After breakfast, we explored a temple complex not far from our heritage hotel, Udai Bilas Palace, where a brahmin greeted and welcomed us. The complex has several lingams (a phallic representation of the Hindu god Shiva) and a shrine to Krishna.

 A lingam, which is really just a stylized penis meant to represent the god Shiva

A lingam, which is really just a stylized penis meant to represent the god Shiva

“This Car Is Going Nowhere”

When we checked out at noon, we learned that our driver was unable to meet us, but that it he would be no more than an hour.

In the interim, we went and sat beside the pool and ordered some snacks to nibble on before our return trip to Baroda.

At one point, a supervisor stopped by our table and asked if we would be amenable to him contacting our driver to see what the situation was.

As the man was speaking on his mobile phone, George recognized the word “police.”

“I don’t like the sound of that,” George said.

The supervisor hung up the phone and told us that our driver had had an accident but was OK. Except that he was currently being held at the police station.

It became clear that we wouldn’t be leaving any time soon.

This prompted George to contact the company we had hired the driver through, TaxiForSure. They had a completely different account of the unfolding events: It was an accident. The car just had to be fixed, but we can leave soon. Maybe today. Tomorrow at the latest. Two days tops.

I was worried about getting back to Baroda in time for our flight the next morning. Wally, on the other hand, was enjoying himself, lounging in the sun and telling me repeatedly that there are worse ways to spend a day.

The supervisor left for the local police station with a promise to update us on the situation. When he returned, he showed us pictures of the badly damaged sedan. The driver’s side was crushed in, both windows smashed.

“This car is going nowhere,” he said.

 

We Get the Real Story

Turns out our driver was in jail, waiting for the commissioner, who would or would not show up within the next several hours. We learned that our driver, probably excited to be on his own with a vehicle, had left the complex and gone for a joyride. We’re not sure he was drinking — but it wouldn’t surprise us if he was eager to get some booze in his system, living as he does in Gujarat, a dry state (something to do with Gandhi being from there, George explained).

The car had gone off the road into a ditch and flipped over. Fortunately he was fine, but unfortunately for us, we no longer had transport back to Vadodara.

Thankfully, the hotel made arrangements for a new driver. Our driver took the state highway and we were back in Baroda within a few hours.

The ride was cheaper (and much more pleasant) than our trip to Dungarpur, and our driver was courteous, so we tipped him extravagantly. It wasn’t that much money to us — equal to a taxi ride across Chicago, say — but the man acted like he had just won the lottery. He thanked us profusely and offered us all bidis, tiny cigarettes hand-rolled in leaves. –Duke