I might as as well finish the story I started to enumerate to Vishy. So the ‘S’ is me. The passenger in a KSTDC taxi.Very surprised by this experience. I saw KSTDC taxis around, hadn’t really called them for an onward trip to the airport, so I wanted to give them a try. I always took Meru or Easycabs, and if that failed, my office would organize a taxi from an small fleet operator nearby. Calling KSTDC was like calling VSNL dialup customer service in those days when Dialup was King; the most you could do is to get a fancy modem that could wringe out those few extra Kbs of speed on your telephone line. VSNL customer service was like “aah, what is your problem? Ok. This is what you can do,… ” and then they will give you a solution that will work. Todays’ call centre services mostly have too much niceties before content, mostly they cant solve your problem (if you had a real one). My KSTDC call centre guy sounded like that, it was refreshing. No niceties, … but the tone of his voice I could make out he meant that the job is done…He said I would get an SMS with the details of the taxi and so on…. and so it goes. As you read in Part 1, I was feeling…. is this guy for real? Hey,… whats your story?
Ramesh has a very unusual story. My usual question to any taxi or rickshaw driver is – Do you own the vehicle you drive? I usually find better service, better maintained vehicles in most cases when there is ownership. This ride was exceptionally good, he was brisk, but not speeding more than necessary, it felt like he had an extra pair of eyes under the car chassis. He seemed to know every small undulation on the road and rolled over graciously over them. Hardly feeling any jerk while driving. He drove as though he had two eggs embedded under his feet when he was pushing those pedals, any sudden push might break those eggs… I assumed right, that this guy owns his car. He did, but he said his wife took a loan from her bank to finance his vehicle. How come? I asked. The story is – his wife works for a reputed software firm. He met his wife some years ago in their village, she belongs to a different caste, but both the families made hell for them and he could not live with his parents, as he encouraged her to finish her college (much to the Chargin of his parents). They moved out on their own, she finished her college and learnt programming ( rattled a list of programming languages she knew). She had taken a break from work for a year because they had a baby and she is now back to work. He has paid off his loan, and sometimes rents his vehicles to other drivers occasionally, when there is an urgent need. He doesn’t do night shifts too often, unless there is a prior commitment.
Ramesh plans to buy another vehicle and get his cousin from the village. He has dreams for his kid. He believes there is a discipline in eating, sleeping and habits while driving that keeps one fit and free from accidents caused by fatigue. He also seems to know how to maintain his vehicle in great condition, so that it is reliable. To me he seemed that in his job as a driver, he is as good as it can get in a place like India. He looks to me like a person who has a story, doing his best to make his life work.
My commuting experience was great, five Stars to him and his well maintained car. This interaction made me see that he is not just a nameless operator, driver but a person who plays his role for the time being. He has your life in his hands. Taking a vehicle out in Indian roads is potentially dangerous, conflict ridden and threat to life and property. Its got everything to do with the driver and drivers out there. Not all people who drive, and become drivers, get on this path, even for a while. There are somethings innate, people come with those attitudes that makes them take those decisions; but a lot is systemic. So what is so systemic about driver behavior and a great commuting experience ??