This post is about the interesting life of normal people we come across, glance at and walk past in our everyday life. This post is a reminder for me to pause, breathe and observe the little details in life and be more compassionate towards people.
The other day when I took an Uber to work, I gave directions to the driver and plugged in my earphones as usual. I was surprised when the driver tried to make conversation about the weather. I answered that I can’t speak the local language and re-plugged the earphones.
The driver asked ,”What language do you know-Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, English, Bengali? I know all of this”. I was intrigued. A little bit of “hmm” and a fair amount of nodding later, I was privy to the last 30 years of his life.
He used to be a lorry cleaner who then bought a lorry of his own(reminded me of Indian movies: break of song- peniless hero ; end of song – millionaire). His lorry transported jackfruits from Kerala, apples from Kashmir and onions from Karnataka. During long journeys, he placed a brick on the accelerator to ease his foot pain.
His brother-in-law was a Pepsi contractor who bought cartons of the soft drink and sold it to pubs on credit. He had enticed the driver with a business offer and the naive fellow sold his lorry to invest in it.
Only later did he realize that the “business venture” was IPL betting clubs. The brother-in-law lost all the money and they foiled his suicide attempt, post which he’s chilling at his village.The driver bought a car with the left-over money and is running a cab service, with hopes of saving enough to buy a lorry again.
I admired his grit and courage to start over from the bottom again. Needles to say, he got a 5 star rating.
2. The lady selling peanut chikkis
It was a scorching hot afternoon and the signal was long. Just as I was rolling up the windows of the car to switch on the AC, I saw an old lady on the pedestrian walk,huffing and sweating. She carried 2 big jute bags that seemed heavy given her discomfort.
As soon as the vehicles came to a halt, she limped across and displayed packets of peanut chikkis to the passengers. When she reached my car, I bought 2 packets and paid her.
She broke into a heartfelt smile and showed me a picture of a young girl and a marksheet. She told me with pride that her grand-daughter is a topper in her B.com class and she is selling chikkis to fund her education. She blessed me for buying from her.
The signal turned green and I drove away, thinking how progressive and hardworking the woman is. While most educated people prevent their daughters from pursuing a career or masters degree, here she was – doing what she could to help the girl compete her education. More power to people like her!
3. The wife with extravagant tastes
A friendly cab driver was once lamenting about the traffic and the toll it was taking on his health. When I asked him why he would not settle for something less stressful, he started narrating stories about his wife.
She was the kind of person who found happiness in other’s approval (no different from my generation that spends time figuring out ways to get 100 likes on a picture). She forced him to sell his run-down Indica and buy a sedan because it added more weight to her stature. She also made sure it was a fancy color.
Every time she wanted to buy groceries, she went to the neighborhood market in the air conditioned sedan. Every weekend, the car was washed in the street at a time chosen based on when the neighbors were present to watch the event. She wouldn’t let him sell the car and start a small grocery shop.
The poor guy’s entertaining account of his wife amused me. It also made me ponder over the unmerited importance we give to other’s opinions. Well, that topic is for another day, another post.
4. The maid’s granddaughter
We have a maid at our place who washes utensils and cleans the house everyday. She had an alcoholic son who wasted away all the hard-earned money. Her daughter-in-law had been diagnosed with throat cancer a few months back and the family was struggling to make both ends meet.
One day, she brought her 16-year old grand daughter along for work and all of us objected saying she should complete her education and we can’t allow (almost) child labor. She pacified us saying that it was summer vacation, the girl had completed her class 12 board exams and scored 60%.
I congratulated the girl, to which she replied with a meek “I could have done better, akka”. When I asked her what she wanted to do next, she replied,” I want to become a Telugu teacher. I am from a Telugu medium school and my teacher says I am good at writing essays, akka. I will teach children how to read and write Telugu”.
I was touched at the girl’s simple heart. Not a doctor. Not a software engineer. Not anything fancy. A straight-forward, unpretentious ambition.Telugu teacher. I gave her a pack of my faviurote cookies and told her to never, ever give up her dreams no matter what. Because that is exactly what is going to define you as a person and shape your life. And it’s very important to have the harness to your life in your hands – something that following your dream will teach you.