Almost every time I duck into a cab in Gold Coast, there's a friendly Indian driver smiling back at me. Usually the second query we exchange is which part of the country each of us belong to. The young Punjabi who drove me to the hotel from the Convention Centre on Thursday night had a slightly different question: What was India's medal count on the first day of the Games?
He was overjoyed by the answer. "I'm often taunted by my Australian colleagues and customers whenever they beat India in cricket. I have an answer ready for them for a few days at least now."
Working three days a week at an IT company, Harpreet drives cabs for the remaining three days, a job he took up just ahead of the Commonwealth Games to make a few quick bucks. He hates the job, though, and says it's not too safe for a person of colour like him. He had to quit the work he liked because back in India, his parents almost broke down when they first learnt of it -- dishwashing at a hotel. "I earned $32 an hour then. It was the best job. I think I'll go back to it after the Games are over and India wins enough medals for me to tell all those who say we suck at sport to bugger off."
Taking cabs to the Games competition venues can be a lousy idea. If you do, wear your runners, sunhat and be prepared to walk a mile along bright orange barricades with large, blue sacks set up against them. Major traffic diversions are in place around competition stadiums, the Games village and most of these zones are off limits for vehicles.
It's anything but a pleasant experience if you're on this expedition mid-morning or afternoon. It's almost as if Indian summers missed you long enough to come visiting. When you've walked far enough to give up, you spot a smattering of yellow-blue. It's the army of smiling volunteers, some sporting giant blue foam fingers and pointing you towards your entry gate, a few others up on high chairs wishing you good morning through small hand-held speakers.
In the unfortunate instance that volunteers are armed with more pleasantries than helpful directions, which can sometimes be the case, slip in your shades and brace yourself for a good, long walk.