As usual, I was running late for my meeting with a client. Watching the latest sitcom I had lost track of time and was cursing myself for this lapse of judgement - shouldn't the 40 minute show end in 30 minutes? Right.
The next immediate decision criss-crossing my head was whether to drive or to book an Uber. Applying Kajal, I decided that booking an Uber would be the most efficient way because I was bound to get lost in 36 Sector Chandigarh. I was silently cursing my client for shifting the meeting to Sector 36 from the nearby Sector 8 whilst two taps and a promo-code booked my ride of 120 rupees. Yes, I hail from the quintessential middle class family and quoting the price is my birth-right.
You know how you sit in the cab and there is this bit of uncomfortable silence?
The driver asks you your destination and you give him the bare directions you know and then the silence stretches.
The ice-breaker in our silence was 98.7 Radio Mirchi.
They were playing pranks, ”murga-banoge”, on a school teacher who was a pronunciation-nazi.
“Rubber is pronounced as rubb-uh not rubb-errr, the r at the end is silent. Like its butt-eh not butt-err”
“Oh okay ma’am, so kabootar is pronounced as…?”
“Its not kabootarr its kaboo-ath”
Well, the thought of this firangi teacher giving a hard time to not only kids but also their parents made me burst into laughter. And so did the cabbie. He was trying to suppress his giggles and then we both just set off!
“Ma’am you laughed so I started laughing out loud too. I was trying not to.”
“You should never suppress laughter”, I said with a smile.
“Yes ma’am. This radio channel is very good ma’am. I drove the RJ of this channel, RJ Charu, she lives around your pick-up point.”
“Oh really? I didn't know Mirchi had its station in Chandigarh, it was more of a Delhi show.”
“No, no, I remember I was surfing the channels and landed on 94.3 when she said 98.7 suno, better hai (listen to 98.7 its better). Then she asked for a feedback. She is a very cool person, ma’am. I have driven some other RJs too, they are always so humble and candid with us. Bus ma’am ek regret hai, selfi
e lena rehgya!” (I regret not clicking a selfie with her)
“I am sure she will ride in your car soon and you will get a chance to click a selfie with her”, I said grinning with this candid, selfie-freak Sikh who was navigating expertly through the streets of Chandigarh.
“Thank you ma’am. I have had such amazing experiences driving Uber. You know ma'am I used to work in Airtel before this and I left my job. My office was in IT park.”
By this time I was legit enjoying the conversation and was appropriately shocked with this revelation.
“Really? I guess this must be better, right?”
“Yes ma’am, definitely. I drive around so many Infosys people and they crib and cry about their jobs. Uber gives me a lot of autonomy and I get to meet such influential people”
“Yes thats true.” Silently thinking that what kind of influential people would he be meeting?
“Ma'am I go home in the evening and spend time with my wife. When I need to take a break I leave. I like working on my own terms ma’am. I don't have to flatter a boss or get my leave sanctioned a month in advance. I earn good money and yet find time for my family too. Its perfect.”
I was left in awe of the poignant analysis he had done of the whole corporate culture and how his ideals were in sync with his actions. It took ten-years of corporate bullying for today’s average MBA graduate to come to this conclusion.
“Your thinking amazes me Sardar Ji.”
“Ma’am I’ve met Dinesh Kartikey, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, they all rode this cab, you know. Some Australian cricketers too contact me whenever they are in the city. Unke sath to ma'am maine daba ke selfies click karvai”
I got a fitting reply to my internal query and couldn't help but grin at the gregariousness of this simpleton cab driver.
He had dreams and loved the blessed life he was living. Throughout the ride he kept on narrating incidents which reaffirmed my faith in kindness and in humanity.
“Ma’am I had a passenger from the posh Sector 2 Chandigarh. The customer was so humble that he invited me inside his home and offered me tea and coke. Ma’am his house was massive, I couldn't believe that I was sitting in this place. It was my dream to see the inside of these huge kothis and there I was sipping tea. It was surreal!"
Then he went on to narrate how a high court judge rode with him and sat beside him and not on the back seat like rest of the customers.
I realised how little gestures, like offering tea, sitting beside him in the car, being kind, posing for a selfie spread so much of happiness.
We were nearing the end of the journey when he said, “Ma’am this is just a temp job. I am preparing for IELTS. I am aiming to go to Canada and I’ll migrate there. Wahan ma'am bahut respect hai, is kaam ko chota nahi samjhte wahan. Moreover my wife would love to see Canada, I will open my own shop there ma’am.”
Suddenly this seemed like divine providence, “Sardar Ji, I work as an Admission Consultant, if you want help with your applications you can always call me. After you give your IELTS exam I will be more than happy to help you with your application essays. Don’t hesitate to call.”
We were nearing the destination and I thanked him for his company. I remember telling him how blessed he was, no, not for driving around stars but for finding ebullience in minuscule moments and for living such amazing experiences by the virtue of his jovial nature.
For me this ride holds a certain je ne sais quoi and I thanked my client for shifting the venue so that I could write my next blog on the simple merriments of life.