You may or may not have seen it. The flashy cab that has stopped at numerous red lights for many years now. Whether you’re into the pimped up ride or not, the Cosmic Cab has entertained curious Torontonians ever since it hit the streets more than a decade ago. It’s been featured in the news and even has its own hashtag (which pretty much validates its success).
I’ve lived in Toronto since I was 7 years old. Between then and now, I, like many of you, have taken thousands of cab rides to various places across the city. However, never in a million years did I think I was going to get in a taxi like ‘the Cosmic Cab’. I’ve never even heard of such a thing, despite the cab being a city attraction in itself.
I was on my way to the Aga Khan Museum when I got off the bus, as instructed by Google Maps. When it directed me to walk for another 11 minutes to reach my destination in the scorching heat, I decided to call a cab. As I waited at the nearest gas station, the a Beck Taxi pulled up. This one, however, was a brighter orange than their usual service. Silver fringe hung off the top hood and plastic dolls with blonde hair was taped to the toplight of the cab.
Genuinely embarrassed to climb into it, I ushered the cab to keep driving.
”You called cab? Get in, very good!” the South Asian driver man yelled, whom I later learnt goes by the name Akber.
“This is it. This is how murder stories start.” I thought as I climbed in to what seemed to be a scene from a weird comedy or a Bollywood movie. Magazines upon magazines were stuffed into the pockets in front of the back seat. There were decorations hanging off every inch of the small parameter of the cab.
I look around, shocked and slightly amused. It looked like an arcade threw up in there. Video screens were placed at behind the headboards for his passengers’ pleasure. Because my ride was so short however, I didn’t experience the vast collection of music he said he offers, including videos of “Sharukh Khan and Kajol” he promised to play for me the next time I called him. (I got his card!)
He was an incredibly friendly man, Akber Batada. Upon hearing I was on my way to the museum, he told me anything and everything I needed to see during my time there. In a span of just four minutes, he explained his daily routine; which consisted of walks, naps, and serving his community – all with a smile that reminded you of the hospitality of a true Indian.
I asked him to permission before documenting my moments in the cab when he told me about his experience with the media. He’s had more than his 15 minutes of fame. When I told him I would be writing about this myself, he proceeded to give me some solid life advice.
I shall, Akber. I shall.
The passion he has for his job oozes out of him. His character is brighter than the strobe lights with the service to match. I would’ve certainly regretted refusing to get into the Cosmic Cab. After all, a little bit of neon can be all you need to make your day. It just goes to show that, like Akber so effectively demonstrates in his everyday life, sometimes doing something out of the ordinary is what makes you the happiest.
Ever been in the Cosmic Cab? Tell us about it!