I'm not good at math. In fact, it gives me the sweats. One place that I don't like to do math is in a taxi cab. I like to look at the meter, pay the fare and give the driver a couple bucks tip. In Kolkata though, you need to do some math to figure out the correct cost of your far. There's two types of math problems:
TAXI MATH PROBLEM #1: To get the correct cost of your taxi, you need to DOUBLE the fare on the meter and then add two rubies. Yes, whatever the meter says you should then double it. For example, if you ride to the Memorial Monument and it says 23 Rubies, the correct cost is 46 Rubies plus 2 Rubies extra. I know this sounds like a scam (DRIVER: "Yeah, so, uh, you actually need to pay double what the meter says) but it's truly how it works. My Lonely Planet warned me about this and so did the concierge guy at our hotel.
TAXI MATH PROBLEM #2: This is the math that really pisses me off. Here's the problem: If you take a taxi from A to B and it costs 70 Rubies, then how much should a taxi from B to A cost? If you're like me, you're thinking 70 Rubies, duh! Well, not so much in a country where everyone is trying to rip you off. Huyen and I took a taxi to a part of town where there was no subway (we took the subway everywhere else which was actually pretty great, albeit crowded). The fare there cost 70 Rubies. After dinner, we approached a cab and asked him to take us back to our hotel. The cab driver wanted 300 Rubies. In fact, every driver we asked wanted something ludicrous and refused to turn on the meter. Finally, we found a guy who would drive us for 100 Rubies. We found him about 1/4 of the way back to our hotel since we had started to walk. In my math world it should have cost us ____ (whatever 1/4 of 70 is).
Besides math problems, there's also sometimes geography problems. Luckily, I was always good at geography...although that doesn't apply in India I guess.
Here's the geography problem: we had to take another taxi one afternoon and the driver dropped us off at the WRONG part of town. We knew it was the wrong part of town but the guy wouldn't stop arguing with us that it was exactly where our hotel's business card said it was. He kept pointing at the card and then pointing to where we were. Well, the guy was clearly illiterate (an English problem) because he had dropped us as some point in town FURTHER away from where we had started. In his defense, both parts of town started with the letter "R". Luckily there was a subway nearby so we jumped on it and got back to our place thirty minutes later.