AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Rudy Gangadeen and I drive a black cab in London. My first name is Roodranath but most people call me Rudy.
I come from what used to be Pasea Village but everybody just says, “Pasea” now. In a family of six siblings, I’m the only boy.
My father was recruited by London Transport and went there in ’69. And we all just sort of followed as the finance allowed.
My wife, Dianne, was born in England of Trinidad parentage. Her father is from Pasea, her mother is from Iere Village. My father used to live in Dianne’s dad’s house.
Caribbean people, when they go to London, gravitate to one another. We trickled to London to Dianne’s dad’s house in Holloway, quite a nice area. We moved to Hackney, quite a deprived area.
Ashley was born in December 1992, Dionne two years later. We’re often told we got it wrong: Ashley should be the girl and Dion the boy; my answer is, “No, they’re British, so it’s correct.”
I lived with my grandparents in Pasea. I went to London as a 13-year-old in 1974, to join my parents. My grandfather died in ‘75. (In the family) we attributed that to the fact that all of us had trickled away. He lasted less than a year (after we all left). But he was a grand fella.
I always wanted to come back to Trinidad but finance was very limited. After six years, I came back for the first time for four weeks when I was 19 and rekindled friendships.
Over the last nine years, I’ve come home almost every year and, whenever I leave, I expect friends, the area, everything, to be the same the next time. But it’s not like that. People’s lives move ahead. Our children are in their 20s and we do our own thing now. I rent a car and we link up with people.
The knowledge of London is a system where a cabbie has to memorise every place of interest – every police station, hospital, nightclub, shopping mall, every street in a six-mile radius from Charing Cross (railway station). They estimate it’s 25,000 streets and 7-8,000 places of interest.
There might be a run from, say, the Hasely Crawford Stadium to Independence Square, and you have to learn every place of interest in a quarter-mile radius from the stadium and every place of interest in a quarter-mile radius from Independence Square.
The examiner wouldn’t ask you for a route from the stadium to the square; he might say, “The Marriott to Nicholas Tower” – and then you have to give the fastest, most direct, cheapest route for the customer.
In 1992, I signed up for the second time and I had to pass it then because Ashley had been born. I joined with four other guys, English guys, and I was the only one who passed.
The pass rate is ten per cent. I finally passed the knowledge of London in 1994, the hardest thing I’ve ever passed.
You’re your own boss and have a job with unlimited overtime whether you own or rent your cab.
I had Amy Winehouse in my cab once. She was absolutely pissed. Her friends had to pull her out of the cab. They thought she was going to be sick. When I asked for payment, they told me to eff off.
When I pick up a Trini passenger, they think I’m an Indian from India first, but when I start speaking, they make out the accent. And normally, I have a Trinidad flag on one of my visors, so that gives it away. I’m a small ambassador for Trinidad.
My daughter and wife say I talk too much. But that’s an advantage in the job: you got to be able to talk to people.
There’re lots of good things about having the knowledge of London – the independence, the flexibility, all of it. But there’s a certain pride that a little boy from Pasea managed to pass it.
There are a number of bad things: working nights and picking up the wrong sorts. People try to pass counterfeit £50 for a £5 ride.
Last year, Dianne and Dionne went to Dubai, to Dublin, and they begging me to go. I said, “When I go on the Travel Channel, I see all those places” ! Ashley was in Amsterdam on a three-month placement and he said, “Dad, I have my own apartment, come!”
I said, “They have people from Amsterdam in London, I can see them already. I don’t have the urge to go to those places – but I need to come to Trinidad.”
Trinis can be the worst or the best people in the world.
TT, to me, is the physical place and the people. Although I’ve been away coming up to 44 years, it’s home.