By Shruti Singh:
Perhaps the most common struggle that we face as citizens of a difficult economy is that of survival. It is almost synonymous with trying to drive after being two Vodka bottles down. You either die or kill someone else. Maybe it’s worse. But what remains is a life full of dilemmas and tough decisions. This is not a story of rags to riches. Neither does it glorify the “take the unconventional path” ideology. This is a story that should inspire you to grow a spine and stand up for what you feel is right for you.
As someone who travels a lot from NCR to New Delhi in public transport, it is sometimes difficult to catch the last UP Roadways bus in Noida. Since we all have established that private buses are not safe for women to travel even at 9:30pm, it is indeed a challenge to reach home safely. Most of the times there is no personal vehicle. On one of such dismal days, hurriedly walking down the stairs of the Botanical Garden metro station, my eyes fell on a white A4 sheet of paper. It read, “Delux taxi to Greater Noida”. The eyes then turned to a man dressed in a white round neck tee-shirt, speaking perfect English. After negotiating, we decide that he will drop me safely to my doorstep. To all those of you who are probably thinking, “She didn’t take the private buses due to safety issues and here she is, in a cab with a man she doesn’t know!” Yes. I too like to live dangerously.
We sat in the car and he handed me his business card. The Taxi Man, that’s what it says and he refuses to tell his real name. The reason that he gives is very Hollywood-like, “It creates an unnecessary personal connection and my family is the only personal connection that I prefer to have.” He drives an old but well-maintained Cielo. The seats are muddy brown in colour. There is a very dim green light that keeps him company inside, and he has one of the most charming personalities that you might come across. After a minute or two of telling him what I do, he began his story.
Hailing from a middle class family that had it’s own issues, he has been earning his livelihood since he was 15. What began as a necessity soon turned into an ambitious desire of being independent, having nothing to do with an alcoholic wife-beating father. The boy worked at a local grocery store to pay his school fee. He was young when he was taught that spoken English is the key to success in India. He did not want to skip school, especially the language class. Growing up in Bhopal, he wished to open a centre for teaching English and also include personality development. He never got to pursue these dreams. Where did you think Bollywood gets all its emotional movie stories from? Through such people who live long enough to share their experiences with others. At the age of 18, he entered the dynamic Delhi University to study B.Com (Program).
He never liked the subjects and opted for the course only because he was also one of us- conditioned to believe that all of us are mass produced machines that should follow the same path, that which leads us to the light at the end of the tunnel. This poor chap carried out his naivete and never saw the train coming from the same tunnel-end. What saved him were his personality and a short stint at being an emcee. He loved the performance, the stage and most importantly, the freedom of doing what he loved. That too was discouraged by people that mattered to him. After a number of odd jobs in order to make a decent CV, he landed a job in Accenture. He finally managed to get into one of world’s most popular MNCs. Praise the lord!
Snap back to reality. In the old green-lit Cielo, we continue to chat. He tells me that this is his last trip of the night. “Can’t wait to get back to my daughter. She can say some words.” His smile travels from the rear-view mirror to my face too. After listening to him the most logical question that follows is, why does he drive a cab from Noida to Greater Noida every evening, without fail? “Accenture did not pay me very well initially. I was 28, married, and had a family of four to take care of. I understand that this is the life story of most of us in India. But I did not want to tell myself that you have to adjust. I didn’t want my child to live a life where she has to think ten times before choosing an institute to study after school. As for this business, it does come with its demerits but, the merits outrun them by a good 100 miles. And now, this old and beaten car has become a symbol of who I am. I bought this car after a year of saving money from odd jobs. Every evening I wait for passengers because in a way I am rebelling against all those who told me that I couldn’t do well in life if I didn’t follow others. At 31, now I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful daughter who inspire me to break these shackles of what’s wrong and what’s right. I mean, who are we really? Just a bunch of dejected youth, scared of pursuing our dreams. I refuse to be one of them.”
The Taxi Man has now given his three-months notice at Accenture to pursue a law degree through correspondence. In the meantime, he will remain the ‘cabbie’ that he so proudly is and will continue to inspire more people. So the next time that you’re stuck at any metro station or anywhere else in NCR, give him a call and enjoy the company of a powerful man who wants you to know that your dreams matter. We are so involved in tearing ourselves down that we forget to take a moment and rewind. It doesn’t matter if you want to follow the crowd. All you need is the humility, the grace and the strength to walk yourself through it. Be conventional or don’t be conventional, the bottom line is that it is your responsibility to choose for yourself. And when you’ve done that, stand by it.
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