The Blame Game
(Story of a cab driver who shattered my ego into pieces)
2.30 AM Saturday. End of another super stressful day at work. “Damn! I had a lot to do today. I have to get to the parking lot to get my cab. The lift would take 5 minutes to reach there.” As I reached the parking lot I saw that there were no cabs available. I tried calling my cab driver and he was too drunk to even realise it was me (Who else works on a Friday nite anyways). I called the cab in charge “Where is my car and why is my driver not picking up the call? You guys do this very often.” The cab in charge sounded very apologetic but he was not able to do much as there were no cabs available. He asked me to wait for 10 minutes and promised that he will make some arrangements. After 20 long mosquito biting minutes, he finally agreed that he can’t do much and requested if I could take a private cab. I got so furious. I yelled “You guys are useless. You are screwing up my life big time”. I took the lift back to the ground floor as I was typing an email to my manager complaining about the situation.
After a few minutes, I decided to take a private cab as I have to get back home and get some sleep. Thanks to the call taxi apps that makes life easy in Chennai. The cab arrived within 5 minutes. I got into the cab and slammed the door so hard and sat quietly. “Where is your drop point Sir?” asked the cab driver. “Pallikaranai” I said in the lowest of my tones. Generally, I plug in my head phones when I’m traveling. It’s my mode of escaping into the world that I love. Cab drivers try talking to their customers during late hours so that they could stay awake. He started “I generally get my duty within 15 minutes in DLF. It’s a bit late today. I don’t see many people working during weekends”. This is not really an awkward question to be posted to an IT employee (We are technically just one call away from work). I answered “Yeah. I work during weekends. My process runs 24*7”. He turned on the Maps feature and pressed the Start trip button and my journey to home finally began(Have you ever wondered about the amount of speaking you should do if not for navigation systems).
His phone was running out of juice. IT guys always wait for an opportunity to showcase their nerd side. I started “Your phone looks to be a bit old and slow. Have you installed too many apps? Your battery might drain quickly because of these unused apps”. He said “No sir! This is the phone given by my cab company. I pay a monthly rent of 300 INR to use it”. He continued “But it doesn’t matter, as it earns so much for me”. I’ve once heard my friend say that these drivers don’t make any profits. So I questioned him about the returns. He laughed, “It’s all about time management Sir!”. Did he just say Time management? Almost everybody I know (including my Ex) have spoken to me about this. But that is what night shifts could do to your life. It affects you mentally and physically. You are never 100% present anywhere (unless it is a Marvel movie or something). All simple daily activities will look like a mammoth task.
He continued “My parents didn’t study much. My dad finished his 3rd grade and my mom her 2nd. They did not have a stable income. But somehow I always believed that we decide our own fate. Fortunately for me, the Reservation system worked and I was able to finish my schooling” he chuckled. (If you are not an Indian you don’t really know what he is talking about.) He continued “Then I was searching for the cheapest possible graduation with more opportunities. I managed to find a seat in ITI (Industrial Training Institute). I paid 700 INR for 2 years including the hostel fees. Thanks to the Caste Based Reservations again. I completed my course and was offered an internship job as an automobile mechanic. I stayed there for 1 year and learned all the tricks required to master this profession. I was also offered a full-time Government job but I had to pay a bribe of 1 Lakh”. That sounded very obvious. Should I feel proud that the course was offered at a cheap price or should I feel sad that our system is super corrupt?
He continued “Then I resigned my internship and started a small sized automobile shop near my home. Irrespective of the costs, I made sure that the quality of the services were at their best. My customers were happy and my business developed through referrals. I started to buy and sell cars that came to my shop for repair”. I got more curious now “Wow! That sounds awesome. Is this one of your cars?” he replied “Yeah right! But I no longer own the shop, thanks to the car manufacturers who decided to offer free services by increasing the buying price (it’s not free technically).” As we approached the Kathipara Junction I told him the shortest route to reach Pallikaranai. “Sure Sir!” he continued. “Then I bought a second-hand car for 60000 Rs and attached it to this cab service. I was able to manage this well because I was willing to work anytime. I was able to pay the dues in 3 months and the car was mine. I loved the way it worked. So I bought another car for approximately the same price and attached it to another taxi service. Now I own a Travels agency and my cars alone earns me 60–70000 every month”. For the records, he earns more than any IT employee who work in the so called startups in Chennai.
He continued “As I am a mechanic myself, I don’t spend much to service the vehicles. That is how life is Sir. Everything is inter related and connected. You just don’t know how the dots would connect at the end”. This reminded me of a Steve Job’s speech at Stanford University about connecting the dots. He doesn’t wear a suit or delivers key note speeches at conferences. Maybe that is why we failed to notice guys like him. He laughed and continued “My wife works as an Engineer in TCS”. He laughed again. Maybe he thought why would you guys spend 4 years to study and work your hearts out for another 5–6 years to marry another IT employee who belongs to the same clan. Never mind. I continued “How did that happen?”. He said “Sir! I run my own business now. What is the big deal? My parents asked me if I could marry this girl and I said yes”. I asked him “Then why would you drive a cab?”. He chuckled “My wife has gone to visit her mom. She is not happy about me driving cabs. I felt a bit lonely today. So I granted leave to one of my drivers who wanted to spend time with his family.”
Finally, I reached my place. I said “You are just awesome! I will let you know if I am planning on buying a second-hand car. I might need your help”. “Sure sir! Keep my card” he said and pulled out a visiting card from his wallet. It said “RajKumar — XYZ consultancy” I was shocked again “Do you work for a consultancy as well?” “Yes, Sir! I am one of the investors in this consultancy. We try and get jobs for Engineering graduates who do not have the required skill sets. Let me know if any of your friends require a job. I would be happy to help”. Ouch, that hurt! But the fact is that Chennai has more Engineers and Swift cars than cows these days.
So I met this cab driver who loves his life and appreciates it. A person who converted all his negatives into positives. I am sure this guy had left a huge impact in my life already.
Paulo Coelho was right when he wrote “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”.
Meet my OLA cab driver who is living his dream — Mr. Rajkumar!