Often a simple heartfelt conversation with a complete stranger can be so enlightening and refreshing in times of distress.

After a long exhausting day, I finally got a hold of a cab to go back home in the evening. Our conversation with the cabbie was first initiated by himself who started to complain about the traffic. He went on to confess or rather complain that majority of his customers did not know the local language, Kannada, and as such it was becoming highly difficult for him to communicate with them. With numerous one-way streets and blocked roads, in addition to the communication gap, he had had a rough time finding many of his clients that day.

As I realized that he was very cordial and open to a conversation, I was quite curious to know about him and his background. I had always wondered what type of circumstances would lead someone to be a cab driver and how they receive their earnings.

Here is what I found out about him:

He is the single child and currently the sole breadwinner in the family. With a Bachelor of Arts degree studied in Kannada, he did not know English. His father had been an alcoholic during his childhood days while his mother worked as a maid. The rule in his family was that if he earned, he would have to share his earnings with his father for drinks or else he could not work. If he was interested in getting any education, he would have to earn it himself. I found this concept derived from Western countries where many students are expected to fund their own post graduate education. Whereas, a common situation in India is that parents feel an obligation to support their children for throughout their education. He worked as a truck driver throughout his undergrad, and hence had gained experience driving. He came to Bangalore in search of a job. After two years of working as cab driver for a car owner, he had finally managed to buy his own car, which he realized would earn him more profits. He was distressed that due to the increasing number of cab drivers in the city and lower commission rates from the taxi companies, his earnings had significantly decreased. However, he will continue to drive for a few more years until his parents decide to get him married. As his parents still resided in his native place in the northern part of the state, he wanted to go back in a couple of years to settle down and become a farmer. I asked him what happens if he gets bored of driving. To this, he passed a strong message: “What else can I do Madam? I need the money. If I had a brother or sister, I would definitely fund their education. So right now, I am trying to help my friend, who is amazing at playing cricket, get into a state training program. I have worked very hard to come to this stage. It is all paying off now. I even bought myself a bike recently. Now, my friends are coming to me to ask for loans. There was a time when I used to stand before them asking for money. I have gotten selected in round one for a driver position for the government. If I pass the written test also, I will have a permanent, reputable job in my hand. What more can I ask for my qualifications and background?” These words did not show the slightest hint of boasting. He seemed very proud of himself and believe it or not, I felt it too.

Throughout the journey, he kept on apologizing for talking too much and confessing too many of his feelings. Since it was very rare to get customers who speak Kannada, he was immensely excited to be speaking to me. There is a Kannada proverb that translates roughly as: “What the patient wants is also what the doctor prescribes.” This was quite related to my situation; I was also in dire need of a unique conversation and the poor man was also in search of a local person he can converse with fluently and openly. A complete win-win situation! So, I insisted we keep on talking; after all, after these 20 minutes or so, we would once again be on our own paths. To this, he gave a big, wide smile and prompt reply as such: “I know Madam, but when I have such a nice conversation going on, I feel like why can there not be more traffic or something else to extend our time together by at least 5 minutes” Mind you, this was a stranger speaking. We were both probably flattered to the same extent.

When we finally reached home, I asked this stranger-turned-friend for his name and wished him luck in all his future endeavors. I wish I had taken a picture of this gentleman!



By Maya 🙂

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