This Uber driver counselled me today on the importance of having children. With a rather disconcerting directness, he asked me whether I was married. Then went on to inquire if I had kids, planned to have kids and then explained, “Continuity of life. That’s what I tell my daughter too.

I didn’t need to know why he assumed I would have a similar outlook, as his family, to starting a family. He knew me, just as so many of my Uber drivers from various countries of Africa presume to know me.

We like family movies. No kissing, you know?” another Uber driver said to me some days back. He was not hitting on me (at least, I don’t think so..). Why was he talking to me about kissing scenes? Same reason as yet another Uber driver.

As you can probably tell by now, I love Uber and take a lot of rides. Anyway, a third Uber driver had me very nervous. He kept turning around to grin at me as he reminisced about his childhood. In spite of all the smiles, he blamed me (in a crazily impractical argument) for his failure to pass one of his high school exams.

The final driver I will mention here refused to believe I was married. Then asked me if I had friends or cousins who would like to marry an African like him. He said all this as if it was not at all a creepy thing to ask of a passenger.

You might ask why all these weird encounters (or you might be more interested in why I still take Uber with drivers from Eritrea, Ethopia, Sudan, etc. I don’t know driving, so that is that.)?

Blame it on Bollywood movies; on the colourful dances, large family dramas, larger-than-life action sequences and the inevitable happy endings. The people all know Indians and what India is like.

Yes. One and all of my Uber drivers talk about 2 things. Their high school teachers were intelligent distinguished Indians (A fact I had no idea of). And all of Africa (or the part I seem to end up meeting) love Bollywood movies. It goes back to the days when Africa did not have a developed movie industry. Without subtitles it’s tricky to understand the Hollywood movies, the drivers tell me. Also, the sensibility is different. African culture is very similar to Indian, they assure me.

Mithun Chakraborty’s disco dancer, Amitabh Bachchan’s Sholay and Rajesh Khanna’s Anand make more sense. Of course, there is Rani Mukherjee’s expressive eyes and Shahrukh’s lessons in love. Our movies transcend the barrier of language. They make people happy. The dances, dancers and a life bursting into songs brings hope. Kids, grandparents and tired parents can sit in a crowded living room and get lost in this vibrant world.

I remember all of these stories when I randomly choose a new Bollywood movie to watch. The ones that do have these good-looking people and sets, with crazy story-lines, are often not considered serious cinema. Heroines no longer seem shy of kissing. They drink, they curse. In fact, in all ‘serious’ cinema people have to use bad words. Then there is the onslaught of the poor people or the harsh realities of life. Not to forget, if one person makes a film on boxing everyone needs to make a film on boxing.

The closest you come to the past is in item numbers with weird lyrics. David Dhawan does not make movies with Govinda anymore. Karan Johar is considered delusional. Nandiadwala’s grandeur is only for silly masses who don’t want to use their brains. Yash Chopra is no more.

A Mogambo-like devious villain. Hundreds of side dancers. A minimum of 6-7 5 mins songs. A wedding or two. Lots of romance. There is something simple and heartwarming in a happily ever after. Bollywood movies knew that. And my Uber drivers loved that.


Love Bollywood Romance.. You might like.. Switzerland You must be Dancing..