Monday, December 22, 2014

Love has not tired yet

So much is made of issues such as religion, taxi driving and civic safety. I am most reminded of male overoptimism as we attempt to make sense of ‘news’ that we get. Even the barbaric mass murders of school children in the sub-continent seem only to have sent that momentary chill down our spines. Leonard Cohen has a song on Faith that has a contemporary prophetic appeal. Sample lines..

“The blood, the soil, the faith
These words you can't forget
Your vow, your holy place
O love, aren't you tired yet?
A cross on every hill
A star, a minaret
So many graves to fill
O love, aren't you tired yet?

Indeed, presence in a moment of dire stress and bringing the other person to that wavelength comes from a rare and dynamic awareness. Like Viktor Frankl did with his prison officers. Human will, inner deep bone gifts of clarity and our attitude to crises. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” wrote Frankl in his book Man’s search for Meaning. I thought I met a few such people over the last few weeks of December.

A 4 am pick-up to the airport is often a curse for a worn out taxi-driver. But there he was 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Knowing a name helps, I thought when he called and spontaneously broke into Malayalam. I asked him if he had enough rest, and he said, he had just got up from sleep as his driver had gone on leave. So, what on earth was a pastor doing behind the wheel I thought as he cruised into a steady gear. “How did you know that?” he asked. “Well, I was informed by the cab company”. “Oh, no. They registered my name that way?” A few more turns under street light and he opened up. “I do not like to go begging for alms for spiritual service. So I set up a few taxi runs, so that we generate our own money to run medical camps and run a couple of schools in remote areas. My drivers need rest, and I pitch in like I did today. They know we’re building a mission”. 

On another pick-up and drop in another city, I got a multi-utility vehicle, (kind of upgrade from a sedan), and the driver was another enthusiastic livewire. “So where do you stay?” I asked him. “Sir, this vehicle belongs to the owner, who works for a software company. He wanted a trusted driver. So, since I am from his village he asked me to take care of the car. He stays down the coastal road”. “So, where do you stay?” “In this car,” came a prompter response this time. I knew I was onto something. 

“I wash up at the Central Station or at the airport wash-rooms”. “So you eat in hotels, I presume!” I volunteered. “Yes, usually, between rides, whenever I feel hungry”. “What about your clothes?” I queried, as he sported a chauffeur's look atypical of his tribe. This question brought a proud response from him. With a modest swish of his wrist and opening up his fingers from the sturdy steering, he said “I give my clothes for laundry twice a week”. And his village connect? “Sir, I go home by bus once a month. My wife and daughter are my life”.


On my last trip home from the airport, the Regional Transport Office (RTO) halted the cab I was in. When pulled onto the side, the sentry politely asked me for 5 minutes from my ride to verify papers of the driver. In 3 minutes the driver was back from the patrol vehicle of the RTO. When I asked him what it was about, he said, “Sir, this is a registered vehicle, and there was no problem. But the recent incidents have meant that the government is keeping closer checks. That is all”.

Just a few examples of how the organised web-enabled taxi industry in India has many an endearing story behind the wheel. 

Indeed, love has not tired yet.  May the year 2015, thrive on it.