I felt good about something that day.
My flight touched down the Kolkata airport runway and I closed my eyes in a silent prayer. I am back after a hectic trip covering 4 countries over 18 days. I was looking forward to reaching my home. I switched on my phone- 11.30 pm. Targeting home by 1.30 am.
My apartment complex is about 40 kms from the airport. Most of the app cab drivers cancel the trip after hearing the destination and it is indeed a long wait at the app cab stand which is usually highly chaotic. I was cursing myself under my breath to have got into this situation
After the endless wait at the carousal to get my luggage, I booked the cab, and Viola! It allotted the driver instantly. Given the past record, I knew that it will take a couple of iterations to get my cab going to Joka, the southernmost part of Kolkata city. Surprise, Surprise, as I walked towards the taxi stand, I got a call and the driver asked my destination, normally I hesitate, but this time I gave it immediately and asked him if he would come. “ Of course sir” was the instant reply. I could not help smiling with joy.
Utpal was ordinary looking youth typical Bengali features, unlike other drivers he immediately got down and opened the boot of the car and took my luggage to put it in. The long journey began. Something about him was likeable. He was knowledgeable, he was ambitious, looked like he was a hard working guy. He shared his story how he purchased the car and manages to support his small family. I always appreciate guys who are roughing it out without losing hope. He was in his own way an entrepreneur, who was directing his own future, fully under control and I really felt good for him as I have felt good on many other such occasions. Technology has surely given opportunity to thousands to earn their living on their own, working for themselves a change that I have seen happening across the Indian landscape.
By the time we reached home, he built a rapport enough to say that he would drop me and pick me up from the airport every time I travelled. No need to book the app, just call him. Over the time I called him many times, and he was full of enthusiasm every time explaining his success stories, how he overcame some life challenges, stories about his friends, stories about a passenger who was rude or a damsel in distress whom he helped. I figured out he had a set of friends who used to keep calling him for advice in their tight situations and he used to offer solution or advise with aplomb. The ride to and from the airport had become a thing which I started looking forward to. I knew this guy will go places…
Many months later during one of the trips I could see his conversations being disjointed, random and clearly lacking content. Sign of a man who was tensed. During that trip, to the airport, he would have hit the security barricade, but for my alarm at the last moment. As I alighted I asked if everything was ok. He confessed that he was tense, I wished him luck!
Since then he did not pick up my calls and I was back to the grind with the app cabs. Nature is also strange, we eventually get used to anything if it persists and then we say life goes on.
It therefore came as a surprise when I got a call from him last week. He told that could not pick my calls before for many reasons, but now he is ready again for the job. As luck would have it I had to travel back to Kolkata that night and asked him to come and pick me up. He agreed
As we were driving home, he narrated his story of how a series of wrongs how many calculations misfired and gone was the confident tone of an Indian youth who was ready to face the world. Here was a guy reduced to driving someone else’s car, his car being seized by the finance companies for nonpayment of EMIs. I could feel so many dreams having crushed within him. The hope for a better living for his wife, his daughter, the real world had been unfair to a hardworking guy. I did not ask for the reason but I could not control sadness enveloping me.
That was a Saturday night, the next day afternoon as I was browsing the channels, I saw the old classic movie, a story of similar hopes and dreams dashed despite hard work; all quirk of fate, Bimal Roy’s movie Do Bhiga Zameen. That was the year 1953
So many decades later, many such stories still re run, despite the giant strides of development I could not help thinking how many such Utpals of the world have had stars in their eyes only to be brought to the ground resigning to their fate that their flight would never take off or their flight crash landed before it took off. They exist in thousands along with the few who made it big whose success stories are taught in the B schools.
The parallel of this story which I experienced firsthand, to the classic movie could not be missed. It brought tears in my eyes, lump in my throat…. I switched off the TV, closed my eyes to introspect deeper and deeper giving a thought for the vanquished, fully aware that life still goes on………