(A)musings on drivers…..

(A)musings on drivers…..

Durgadas P.V.

The dictionary meaning of driver is 'a person who drives a vehicle'. Google also elaborates that the letters in the word stand for discipline, respect, intelligence and vision….When you read this, I don't know who comes in your mind. He (very rare chance of being a she) must be someone who would have been very reliable and dependable for you as a driver of your car.

The most illustrious and intelligent driver ever was certainly Lord Krishna. He could rattle out the whole epic of Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna while sitting in the driver's seat.

After my employer considered my services good enough to be designated as Assistant General Manager, I was given the perquisite of the car and driver for performing official duty. Thereafter until my retirement, I had the luxury of a car and a driver for over twelve years. During this period I had eight different postings and 'enjoyed' the services of as many drivers.

I had always liked driving ever since I learnt it at the age of eighteen. Initially I felt that having a driver is an inconvenience. But for moving from branch to branch spread over many districts, as the Controller or Regional/Zonal Manager, the service of a driver was found to be inevitable. Moreover it was an added advantage as he knew the route very well in the era when GPS was not available. In a city like Mumbai, where the office was at least one and half to two hours away from the residence during peak time time traffic, the major portion of ' home work' could be done sitting in the back seat of the car as I had very careful and reliable drivers at the wheels….!

In another posting , we were on visit to a remote branch. There was discrete information that the manager skulked in the afternoons much before the closing hours. Two attempts to catch him got foiled because the loyal shopkeepers who were branch customers on the way had divulged the information about the RM's car passing by. The third time we could catch him while leaving for home as my driver took a different route….!

The drivers who work for CMD and EDs are generally as reticent as their bosses. The GMs and DGMs generally try to keep them in good humour for the reasons one could well imagine. Similarly the driver of the GM (HR) gets lots of pampering during the promotion/posting seasons. It is always preferable to have a driver who is not conversant with the language one speaks. But this was possible for me only in one or two postings. The drivers also learn different languages by working with different bosses…..! One common quality the drivers have is very good grasping power. From whatever is talked within the car they record the points carefully and analyse them later and come out with their conclusions at the DPC ( it is not Directors’ Promotion Committee but Drivers’...............). By and large their conclusions tallied with the ultimate list …..!

When I was posted in the Head Office I did not have a smart driver who could gather information like Julian Assange and forecast movements/postings precisely like the weather bulletins in developed countries. What he could do was to keep the car in excellent condition. Other drivers had a grudge against him for cleaning and polishing the car whenever he got free time.

To have a driver who has a similar taste of food is an added advantage. Similarly if the driver also likes to pray the same God as you do, it is more convenient. Once I had a driver who prayed for more time in the temple than I did. He also was too particular to anoint the dashboard and the steering wheel with the sandal paste and holi ash…..which I had to restrict politely…….!

Certain smart drivers perform in a very ingenious manner to get things done. I had a similar experience with one of them. In one of the postings, the car was an old Ambassador which had run for over 1.25 lakh kilometres. The condition of the car was very bad. There were very frequent breakdowns. Repeated requests to the head office for a new car were not considered favourably. The reasons quoted were many varying from austerity measures to lack of profitability of the area under my command. In spite of all possible precautions, the car broke down on the way more than once due to some major defect, repairs for which were estimated to cost a fortune. Even these repairs though recommended were rejected by the Head Office citing it as uneconomical.

And within a few days, the General Manager visited the Region. Though I proposed hiring a taxi car, my driver opined against it. He said he would manage with the bank’s car. He was well received at the airport which was about twenty kms away. Before getting out of the house, I had prayed to God with a request that the GM’s visit should be smooth in all respects. My wife went to the temple and offered prayers for hasslefree running of the car. Earlier she had also experienced a couple of breakdowns while on her trip to a nearby market.

It was ten in the morning . The car was in the midst of the busy traffic on the fly over with the me and the GM in the back seat. The GM had already started asking about the business figures, targets, shortfalls etc etc. My ears started concentrating on a funny sound from the engine of the car. I almost closed my eyes and started praying to the local Ganesha temple with a promise to break two coconuts seeking his blessings for a smooth ride of the car. The car reached almost the centre of the fly over from where the down slope started. With a peculiar sound it stopped in the middle of the road and the honking from the vehicles behind started almost simultaneously. It was clear that Ganesha was not enamoured by my offer of two coconuts. He got hundreds of them every day. As the driver went to look into the bonnet, I got out of the car to seek apologies from the row of cars standing behind. It was the B C (before cell) era. Somehow the car was taken to the side and later down the slope of the bridge. Luckily we could get a taxi to proceed further to the hotel where GM was booked for his stay.

I was preparing myself for a firing with choicest of harsh words. But the GM was very kind. He graciously remarked ‘ after all these are mechanical devices. Such things do happen ‘. Anticipating the problem, I was ready with my file of correspondence in connection with the car. I also explained to him that the only way was to replace the car which was not agreed by the Head Office in spite of repeated requests with supporting data. The GM was good enough to direct immediate replacement of the car. This incident took place twenty years back. In a recent get together meeting of the retired staff in connection with the foundation day, my old driver made a confession that he had to do it because he knew that I had exhausted all efforts to get the old car replaced………! I could not but appreciate him for being smart in his own way for the sake of the institution and for the convenience of all concerned……!

There is a saying in english ‘ all good things come to an end'. And when I turned sixty , the Bank also said goodbye with a smile. And all the perks stopped there.

But I could never imagine a change of roles in the following lines. Having got used to a car with a chauffeur I never wanted my wife to be deprived of that perk. And she rightly claimed it as there was no superannuation for a homemaker. Therefore I did purchase a car for our use. And I became the driver for my wife…….! Only difference is that she drives me while I drive the car. And the new avatar is not with all the qualities ascribed for the profession at the beginning of this story……..!