Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Cinnamon Powder - IV

The Autowala

I was getting impatient towards the evening. Had I got myself into trouble by accepting this position at this company? I had thought that it was going to be closer, lesser commute time – not lesser so much than better and easier commute time, and of course, the opportunity to work in a great place. I dreamed on a bit more about all the art shows that I could go to, the festivals just around the corner, the walks to all those great eating places and of course, the endless people watching. “People watching” – that specialization opportunity that they never tell you about in universities…but now, I’m digressing…
After calling up and finding out that there were no easy commute modes available, I was introduced to the idea of a chauffeur-driven vehicle – the humble auto. So, here I was trying to call up the person who would drive me to work each morning. Well, it was a short conversation. I tried to make it more economical for me but in the end, agreed to the proposition at the other end of the line.
8:00 am, the next day, I got a call. The driver had come! I was pleasantly surprised by his sense of timing. We all know how punctuality is a true blessing and as all true blessings, as rare. The cynic in me told me that maybe this was his “first day” style.  But as days progressed, this punctuality and awareness of time would stick. And this was one of the first reasons that I started looking at this man with respect. We developed a quiet understanding and an unsaid pact was developed. Both of us adhered to time and if at all, there needed to be a change, it would be communicated. This sense of professionalism and respect for another person’s time is something that I’d love to see in many people that we come across in the workplace!
Our conversations started…
I was in for another surprise when one day he told me that he needed to take his wife to the hospital and so, would not be able to come for the daily pick up unless I was ok leaving a bit early. I agreed and then asked after his wife. With sparkling eyes, he told me that they were going to become parents. I congratulated him and asked after his wife’s health. And then, the man told me how both of them were hoping and praying for a girl child. Yes -  a girl child!! I was shocked. For those of us who have been following the news, about how female foeticide is prevalent and especially in families who are not very educated, would share my emotion. In India, sad as it is, most families and especially in rural or less-educated families go to any lengths to get a male baby. They will perform sacrifices, go to fake doctors, pay quacks (even when they don’t have enough money to feed their family!) – all to ensure that they are blessed with a son. And in front of me was a man who not only was hoping for a girl child but was actually taking his wife to the hospital to ensure that she got the best care in the world. My eyes brimmed over with respect for this man. On other occasions, when we would discuss news and inadvertently talk about the crimes against women, he would come up with a simple philosophy. He believed that when a woman goes through life doing so much for her family, how can that family or others around her treat her as anything less than remarkable? He expressed shock and disgust at all the men who treated women as commodities and was “macho” enough to express his love for his wife.

He had other ways of showing respect for women. He would ensure to tell me about all possible ways of reaching a place so that I didn’t have to depend on him always and I would be safe even if I was to commute on my own.
Not only respect for women, this humble man is a stickler for principles. Another one of his rules was that he wouldn’t drive in the night, no matter how lucrative the money. He would always head home around 8:00 pm to spend time with his family. And for many years, he would not work on Sundays considering it his weekly off. Professional to the core with a code of ethics!
Though I’ve changed workplaces and don’t get to meet my autowala so often, we still talk on New Year’s and his daughter’s birthday. Yes, he was blessed with a daughter alright.