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Routes to exasperation

Each driver employed has a peculiarity, strength and weakness: eventually you come to terms with them

Our first driver, in the national capital city, was quite a modern person: he was Gen X. While at the wheel he kept the FM channels running and laughed to himself over the jokes that came from them. He had many people calling him on the mobile phone. He indulged in lengthy self-glorification. He took the turns on the road like a cyclist. and on the straight roads he took his hands off the wheel. After dropping us at a destination he would go invisible. When we came back we had to call him and wait till he arrived at the scene like a filmy hero.

“Where were you?”

“Right behind the car sir, talking to my mama in Dubai”, would come the reply.

When he drove my wife, he rather drove her mad with his questions about me, such as: “What position is he holding in the company?” “When is he finalising the property?”

He wanted to know when we had moved into the new house, why my wife had chosen Ophthalmology as her specialty. A day before salary day, he would invariably remind me, “Sir would you be giving me the money tomorrow?”

A driver should remain a driver. He was overstepping. Bad habits were adding on to it. We sacked him gracefully one evening. We paid him for an extra ten days and told him not to turn up anymore, and he was gone.

The gentleman

Our next driver was a thorough gentleman. He knew all the roads of Delhi. He had a thorough knowledge of the diversions constantly happening due to the Metro construction. He knew the best parking places, the shortest routes, the low-traffic routes, and so on, and we felt proud of him. We tell him the destination and he just takes us there. Reaching places became simple. He was skilful in finding a way out of traffic jams. He sneaked his way through the inner lanes at times. Moreover he had no questions to my wife about the progress I was making with my life. He cared a damn about us. All he cared was reaching destinations.

But he had one major shortcoming. He never arrived on time. He had to be given reminders. If we had to start early we had to even give him a wake-up call. He began to drop me in the airport at the last minute. He would resort to over-speeding in order to make up for his tardiness. Middle-of-the-road quarrels began to happen. He jumped red lights, took turns without the indicator lights. He once banged into a barricade and the front bumper had to be replaced. The doors were full of scratches. The car was in the garage for a week and I soon found myself chasing the insurance company.

So we packed him off one day with half a month’s extra payment just for his politeness. He left gracefully with a smile that he carried over the wheel invariably. And he brought us a new driver who was introduced as his cousin brother though they bore no physical similarities.

The looks

He was deep dark in complexion with a scary face. His white eyes were intense. He combed his hair sideward like a thief. However we decided to test him. Our friends were not happy with our choice. “It is not safe to keep such a driver,” they kept cautioning us. “Dark people are not necessarily bad people,” my wife and I argued, and stuck on to our decision.

After 15 days he told me, “Sir, I have no money for food today, can you pay me for the last 15 days?” I paid him. After five days, he wanted money for another five days.

“This is going to be the last time,” I cautioned him. “Stop eating out. Buy a stove and a few vessels and that is what I did when I was a bachelor.” The next morning he confirmed the purchase of a stove and a few utensils. He showed me a small plastic pouch in which he carried his lunch now. Things were all going well — until one day when he did not show up.

I dialled him many times. There was no answer. He did not return my calls for the whole day. In the evening there was a frantic call: “Sir I am calling from the police station”.

“What happened?”

“My previous employer has complained against me about a theft from the car I drove. They believe I committed the theft. But sir, I am innocent,” he pleaded with me. “You need not come from tomorrow,” I told him. “When you get free from the police station, come and collect your dues”.

“Sir, don’t do that, I have no job. No money for food.”

“Don’t worry, you cousin will find you a new job.” I shouted.

“Sir, he is not my cousin, he is my neighbour.”

“Why did you claim to be his cousin?”

“No sir, I never claimed; that is what he told you, I never tell lies.” He kept pleading over the phone.

“Come and collect your dues tomorrow”, I said and banged the phone.

The next day he was at my doorstep with a downcast face. “Sir, don’t do this to me, I have settled everything, now I am free. I have no money now. I spent it on the utensils. I am looking for a new life with you.”

I could not drag the matter further. I paid him for a full month and sent him off.

The latest one

Now we have a new driver. He is extremely punctual. He too has no questions about me or my family or my ancestors. He is dutiful and obedient. He brings his lunch with him. He has no passion for FM radio. No radio jokes can make him laugh. He doesn’t even smile; he parks the car in the slot with precision.

But he too has his shortcomings. Firstly, he doesn’t know the routes. I have to continually guide him like a cart driver, “left, right, left right”, from my seat. He misses the diversions. Whenever we pause and ask for directions, we find we are going in the direction opposite to the intended one. Now I am fully involved in the whole process of driving till we get to the destination. Secondly, he drives through potholes with mathematical precision. He rather bounces us on a porthole like a jet in an air pocket. He can even get all the four wheels into the tiniest pot hole.

“Why do you do this?” my wife once screamed when the car landed in a deep one. “Sorry, this was a new one on this road,” came the reply.

Coming to terms

“Every driver has his strengths and weaknesses”, we deliberated. However we have decided to put up with his weaknesses. Some of them are unbearable but they are not criminal traits. So we have decided to coach him out of them gradually. Of late he has learnt our regular routes to office, shopping places, church and the school. When the car bounces from a pothole, we pounce on him. Now he applies the brakes suddenly just before the pothole and throwing us out of our seats. We are dealing with it severely.

Once he came so early for duty and kept knocking on the door. The knocking was getting louder and louder. I had to rush out of my bath to ask him, “For heaven’s sake, can’t you wait for a moment please?”

“Sir, give me the keys, I will keep the car clean by the time you get ready,” came the reply.

His punctuality beats the standards set by any success book. I am too early at every place, be it the office, airport, or the bank. There are many benefits of being early and I am enjoying them because of him. While going to new places we are using the GPS map, effecting a clear improvement of our internet skills. It is six months now and he has become the longest serving driver.

prakashtjohn866@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 1:01:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/routes-to-exasperation/article18515069.ece

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