For the first time in my life I did something I had never done before. struck up a conversation with a cabbie. ormally, it’s the talkative cabbies who like to strike up a chat with me. They don’t believe in letting their client ride in silent splendour. Before I settled down in the taxi and had time to ‘achieve’ a sense of inner peace within the confines of the cab, they ‘thrust’ a dialogue on me — whether I like it or not.
It’s actually more of a monologue, with one cabbie going into top gear to brag about his son working abroad and earning dollars, while another spins out his own ‘editorials’ on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the state of the nation. If only he had been the Prime Minister of India, not chaiwallah Modi! I maintain a monosyllabic response to all their orations while looking outside to track the taxi’s progress through the heavy traffic.
Who knows, the harmless and pointless conversation could well be a ruse employed by the cabbie to take me for a circuitous ride literally and figuratively and inflate the fare! But this time it was different. The taxi driver and his vehicle were so quiet that I could almost hear a pin drop. Though taciturn, there was something about him that cried out for my attention. His remarkable poise was quite unusual for a cabbie. He exuded a sophistication that was difficult to ignore. “Is this your own car?” I broke the floating silence. “Yes, sir,” he replied. “Bank loan?” I asked. “Yes, sir.” Again only a two-word submission.
“You must have got it at concessionary interest rate for self-employed youth,” I ventured. “No, sir. Since it’s a yellow cab, I pay almost 14 per cent interest, while private cars attract only 10 per cent interest maximum,” he said. His English was impeccable. “What about your education?” I queried. “I have a diploma in engineering, sir. Now I am studying for my B.Tech — through correspondence,” he explained. His stock in my eyes kept going up. “But when do you drive and when do you get time off to study?” I probed further. “I have to make time, sir. drive for almost 10 hours a day, but even during that time, I try to catch up on my lessons while waiting to get a passenger. That can sometimes take up to two hours. I don’t idle away my time chatting on my mobile as other drivers do,” he said.
“Don’t you have friends, a girlfriend may be, to talk to?” I tried to pull his leg. He smiled. “The only thing I wait for is a call from a prospective client. For now, the other ‘waiting’ for a girlfriend can wait!” I gave a hearty laugh. We were nearing my destination. But I had to probe a bit further to satisfy my everincreasing curiosity. “What do you plan to do after you complete your B.Tech in a few years?” “Oh, I will go back to my village, sir. Whatever money I make from my cab I will invest in my farm. That’s my dream,” he replied. What more could I say about a cabbie who was focused on education for education’s sake and also prepared to work hard to realise his dream? An idealistic anomaly for this day and age! While alighting from the taxi, I shook his hand and gave him a hefty tip. To his credit, he thanked me, but didn’t salaam in submission. I wish I had noted down his name and mobile number. But, I didn’t and walked away, thinking about the unexpected and unusual encounter with an unusual cab driver. Time has passed by since then. I still remember him though — such was the impression he made on my mind. I won’t be surprised if one fine morning, I discover his driving personality in the business news column of this newspaper as a rising star.