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My Glorious Driver

About Rishi Kapal

Rishi is currently the Chief Executive of EDUGILD, India’s first edtech startup accelerator and consulting Faculty with Leading Educational Institutes. He had a corporate career of 21 years in coveted roles with leading organizations namely Sony, Qualcomm, Castrol, Ericsson and Tata Lucent to name a few. Rishi has handled strategic and leadership roles in sales, marketing, business development, people management and corporate strategy. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Electronics Engineering, Degree in Law(LLB) followed by two masters degrees each from IMI New Delhi and Pune University. He is also a Performance Coach, U.N. Speaker and Author.

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The Introduction

I started my day the way I usually did.  Getting up around 6.30AM, going for a swim, feeling awesome and awake, lying like “dead on water” for a while followed by basking in the morning sun and going home in wet pants.

So the daily routine was about to begin. My mind started rushing through the day’s agenda: It was a text book flowchart: get ready for office, do my meetings and usual stuff there, come home, spend some time with folks, watch TV and bid the day goodbye. My employer had given me a white Toyota Corolla (automatic). Having driven a right hand manual gear car all through my life in India, a left hand drive car in Colombo made me handicapped.  However, since there was a “competent and honest” driver, I did not have much to worry.

Part 1

On that fateful day, I sat in my car and the driver told me few new Hindi words he had learnt. Somehow he was hell bent to learn the language I spoke better than him. Admiring his efforts, I gave him a pat on the back and asked him to drive to work and kept thinking why can’t he just focus on his work instead of spending time on silly things.

He took 45 odd minutes to reach the office. Good timing, considering we were only 5 kilometres away from the place of work. My colleague’s drivers took more time than that for covering the same distance.

I dared not comment on my driver’s slow speed since last time I did something like that, I was almost killed. The guy converted to an F1 kinds for few hours and was fuming all the time. I had kept on thinking for few months whether he was the boss or I! I can’t remember how many times I prayed in those few hours of zig zag zoom and the people around would have cursed or probably prayed a lot.

Anyway, back to the present day, I got dropped off at the office and told my driver to go home. My daughter was waiting to be dropped at school.

I entered the office. A familiar aroma welcomed me. The room freshener. My day began uneventfully at work, people trickling in, my usual cup of tea, few minutes of gossip, reading emails…and suddenly there was a call from home. I was in the middle of reading a rather long email, so chose to ignore the call for once.

The calls starting coming repeatedly by the second. This got me worried. I  picked the call and waited with some news of hell breaking loose, which I didn’t want to listen to.  My wife said, “WHY did you forget to send the car back? Did you not know that our daughter was to be dropped at school?”

“I’ve  sent the driver and the car home,” I replied. Those were very specific and clear instructions from me to him, so what happened? I got more worried about the driver’s plight than my daughter missing school. Maybe there was an accident, hope he was not severely wounded, no one called me to report anything.

I told my wife to hang up and allow me to  investigate the matter.

So began the mystery of my vanished  car and driver.  What a thing to be preoccupied with while a hundred customers were trying to run me down already. First things first, I borrowed my colleague’s car and drove back on the same route that we took in the morning. No sight of the car or the guy, no indication of an accident either.

Next step, visit the police stations and ask for any mishaps in the last few hours. No luck here as well. In fact a few thought that I have hit someone and am reporting an incident! Phew, it was scary. Not to mention, I had dialled my driver’s number a 100 times and it yielded nothing.

Part 2

My mind was sometimes running at Gigahertz speed and sometime becoming completely blank. Should I send someone to my driver’s house? But if they don’t have his whereabouts then they will ask about him, what will I say? The brain went berserk! However, I managed to convince my guts and called his agency. I briefly told them that my driver’s number is unreachable for the last 2 hours, so can they inquire from his family if they have heard from him? The agency manager started palpitating rather than helping me out. He started asking me if I have been rough on the guy, did he go back in anger, and more. Anyhow, with no hopes from anyone, I asked my borrowed driver if he knew where mine lives. “Of course,” he said, “I can take you to his house in 90mins flat.”

I gave a Rs 500 note to this guy and asked him to drop me to office and then go to my driver’s house. My temporary driver didn’t ask any further questions. I got dropped at the office and tried to concentrate on my work. Suddenly I found myself blankly staring at the screen and not paying attention to the emails. I was just ping ponging between the email contents and thoughts of my driver. It was already an hour since the other driver had left, so within an hour I was expecting some news, or maybe not expecting to know what had happened.

Knowing I cannot concentrate on work, I went on the office rooftop for some fresh air. I found two of my colleagues smoking there.

I was watching the people and traffic down below and thoughts returned to my driver. It was close to two hours since the guy had driven off; so I should hear something back soon. I stayed at the rooftop for 45 minutes just being blank. It was like meditating on a railway station platform. Lot of time had passed. I called the driver who was on way to my driver’s house. He picked up the phone after 5 attempts and about 100 rings. Each element of delay made me nervous. On picking the phone he said… well, I wish I could understand everything he said, “Sir, I have reached close to his house. I am eating. Long drive Sir, I was getting hungry. Hands dirty, so did not pick your call Sir!” Now, I could imagine this guy eating his heart out with the Rs. 500 I gave him while I was not feeling like eating at all, though I was famished. Nonetheless, I asked the guy how far he was from my driver’s house, to which he said, “Sir, place changed here. I have to ask for his place, Sir. I think one hour or two hour more and I will reach his house.”

I put the phone down and started surfing the web for nothing in particular. In between my wife called twice to enquire about the car and driver. We exchanged notes of comfort and “Whatever happens does happen for Good” phrase. While I put the phone down after speaking to the driver for the third time, my handset started ringing again. I picked it up casually and kept staring at the screen as if something hard had hit me. Flashing on the screen was my driver’s name, number and photograph.  I picked the call immediately and he said, “Saab, were you calling me?”

Part 3

It took me a minute to first be sure that the guy is calling by himself. I recognized his accent and urge to speak fast. The next statement was mine. “Raja, where are you?” to which I got his reply,  “Sir, you told me to GO HOME and I got very happy. You are such a nice person. As you told, I dropped you to office and went to my home. My wife got smiling and happy that I had come to home very early!” I was dumfounded, dumbstruck, dumb assed, dumb kicked…whatever word one can think as synonymous to insanity and dumbness. I closed my eyes for 10 seconds and thought about what I had last said to Raja. My words indeed were, “GO HOME…!” Whose home was the missing piece???

I well understood now that my innocent fellow had interpreted GO HOME as GO BACK TO HIS OWN HOME! The guy must have been overjoyed for a chance to enjoy a noon honeymoon at home. And now he was afraid that I may be calling to ask him to return. And I was also sure that during his honeymoon venture, he would have kept the phone off and so I was not able to reach him for the last so many hours. Next, I politely asked him, “Raja, was your phone switched off?” He said, “Sir I came home after a long drive, so maybe the phone battery went dead. I checked now and found the phone to be off.”

I was in such a situation that could not even decide what to say to him. So I asked him to just keep doing what he was busy with and come on time next morning. However, I started telling myself to make sure that I instruct to my driver everyday in the morning, “GO TO MY HOME AND DROP BABY TO SCHOOL AND THEN COME BACK TO MY OFFICE.” I was half smiling now at the episode when again my phone rang. “Sir, I reached your driver’s house. He is not home Sir, no one is home, house locked from inside.” I was about to shout at the guy asking if the house is locked from inside then how come no one is home. But I decided to let go. I was just relieved that my driver was fine and the other one was on his way back.

I called up home, narrated the episode to my wife and we enjoyed a good laugh mixed with embarrassment. It was four in the evening and my mind was no-where close to settling down for attending work. Around 5PM I packed-up for the day and left for home. I had to driver myself, no qualms about it. It took me a while to manoeuvre the traffic and reach our apartment. I went up, hugged my family, exchanged glances with folks at home before we burst our laughing. Our daughter had a perplexed and confused expression watching our behaviour.

The next day was a Saturday and in the morning my driver called me at 8AM. “Sir, I will get late because I must go to the temple today and pray for such a good person like you.” He was telling me that he will not surface before offering his prayers and will ask for our well being because we are very nice people! I did not know what to contest. His going to the temple? Praying for us? Or we are nice people? He had caught me in a web of nowhere to hide so I just blurted one word. “OK.”

He didn’t waste a minute in disconnecting the phone, lest I change my mind.

I started my day the way I usually did.  Getting up around 6.30AM, going for a swim, feeling awesome and awake, lying like “dead on water” for a while followed by basking in the morning sun and going home in wet pants.

So the daily routine was about to begin. My mind started rushing through the day’s agenda: It was a text book flowchart: get ready for office, do my meetings and usual stuff there, come home, spend some time with folks, watch TV and bid the day goodbye. My employer had given me a white Toyota Corolla (automatic). Having driven a right hand manual gear car all through my life in India, a left hand drive car in Colombo made me handicapped.  However, since there was a “competent and honest” driver, I did not have much to worry.

On that fateful day, I sat in my car and the driver told me few new Hindi words he had learnt. Somehow he was hell bent to learn the language I spoke better than him. Admiring his efforts, I gave him a pat on the back and asked him to drive to work and kept thinking why can’t he just focus on his work instead of spending time on silly things.

He took 45 odd minutes to reach the office. Good timing, considering we were only 5 kilometres away from the place of work. My colleague’s drivers took more time than that for covering the same distance.

I dared not comment on my driver’s slow speed since last time I did something like that, I was almost killed. The guy converted to an F1 kinds for few hours and was fuming all the time. I had kept on thinking for few months whether he was the boss or I! I can’t remember how many times I prayed in those few hours of zig zag zoom and the people around would have cursed or probably prayed a lot.

Anyway, back to the present day, I got dropped off at the office and told my driver to go home. My daughter was waiting to be dropped at school.

I entered the office. A familiar aroma welcomed me. The room freshener. My day began uneventfully at work, people trickling in, my usual cup of tea, few minutes of gossip, reading emails…and suddenly there was a call from home. I was in the middle of reading a rather long email, so chose to ignore the call for once.

The calls starting coming repeatedly by the second. This got me worried. I  picked the call and waited with some news of hell breaking loose, which I didn’t want to listen to.  My wife said, “WHY did you forget to send the car back? Did you not know that our daughter was to be dropped at school?”

“I’ve  sent the driver and the car home,” I replied. Those were very specific and clear instructions from me to him, so what happened? I got more worried about the driver’s plight than my daughter missing school. Maybe there was an accident, hope he was not severely wounded, no one called me to report anything.

I told my wife to hang up and allow me to  investigate the matter.

So began the mystery of my vanished  car and driver.  What a thing to be preoccupied with while a hundred customers were trying to run me down already. First things first, I borrowed my colleague’s car and drove back on the same route that we took in the morning. No sight of the car or the guy, no indication of an accident either.

Next step, visit the police stations and ask for any mishaps in the last few hours. No luck here as well. In fact a few thought that I have hit someone and am reporting an incident! Phew, it was scary. Not to mention, I had dialled my driver’s number a 100 times and it yielded nothing.

To Be Continued in Part 2

I started my day the way I usually did.  Getting up around 6.30AM, going for a swim, feeling awesome and awake, lying like “dead on water” for a while followed by basking in the morning sun and going home in wet pants.

So the daily routine was about to begin. My mind started rushing through the day’s agenda: It was a text book flowchart: get ready for office, do my meetings and usual stuff there, come home, spend some time with folks, watch TV and bid the day goodbye. My employer had given me a white Toyota Corolla (automatic). Having driven a right hand manual gear car all through my life in India, a left hand drive car in Colombo made me handicapped.  However, since there was a “competent and honest” driver, I did not have much to worry.

On that fateful day, I sat in my car and the driver told me few new Hindi words he had learnt. Somehow he was hell bent to learn the language I spoke better than him. Admiring his efforts, I gave him a pat on the back and asked him to drive to work and kept thinking why can’t he just focus on his work instead of spending time on silly things.

He took 45 odd minutes to reach the office. Good timing, considering we were only 5 kilometres away from the place of work. My colleague’s drivers took more time than that for covering the same distance.

I dared not comment on my driver’s slow speed since last time I did something like that, I was almost killed. The guy converted to an F1 kinds for few hours and was fuming all the time. I had kept on thinking for few months whether he was the boss or I! I can’t remember how many times I prayed in those few hours of zig zag zoom and the people around would have cursed or probably prayed a lot.

Anyway, back to the present day, I got dropped off at the office and told my driver to go home. My daughter was waiting to be dropped at school.

I entered the office. A familiar aroma welcomed me. The room freshener. My day began uneventfully at work, people trickling in, my usual cup of tea, few minutes of gossip, reading emails…and suddenly there was a call from home. I was in the middle of reading a rather long email, so chose to ignore the call for once.

The calls starting coming repeatedly by the second. This got me worried. I  picked the call and waited with some news of hell breaking loose, which I didn’t want to listen to.  My wife said, “WHY did you forget to send the car back? Did you not know that our daughter was to be dropped at school?”

“I’ve  sent the driver and the car home,” I replied. Those were very specific and clear instructions from me to him, so what happened? I got more worried about the driver’s plight than my daughter missing school. Maybe there was an accident, hope he was not severely wounded, no one called me to report anything.

I told my wife to hang up and allow me to  investigate the matter.

So began the mystery of my vanished  car and driver.  What a thing to be preoccupied with while a hundred customers were trying to run me down already. First things first, I borrowed my colleague’s car and drove back on the same route that we took in the morning. No sight of the car or the guy, no indication of an accident either.

Next step, visit the police stations and ask for any mishaps in the last few hours. No luck here as well. In fact a few thought that I have hit someone and am reporting an incident! Phew, it was scary. Not to mention, I had dialled my driver’s number a 100 times and it yielded nothing.

 Continued in Part 2

My mind was sometimes running at Gigahertz speed and sometime becoming completely blank. Should I send someone to my driver’s house? But if they don’t have his whereabouts then they will ask about him, what will I say? The brain went berserk! However, I managed to convince my guts and called his agency. I briefly told them that my driver’s number is unreachable for the last 2 hours, so can they inquire from his family if they have heard from him? The agency manager started palpitating rather than helping me out. He started asking me if I have been rough on the guy, did he go back in anger, and more. Anyhow, with no hopes from anyone, I asked my borrowed driver if he knew where mine lives. “Of course,” he said, “I can take you to his house in 90mins flat.”

I gave a Rs 500 note to this guy and asked him to drop me to office and then go to my driver’s house. My temporary driver didn’t ask any further questions. I got dropped at the office and tried to concentrate on my work. Suddenly I found myself blankly staring at the screen and not paying attention to the emails. I was just ping ponging between the email contents and thoughts of my driver. It was already an hour since the other driver had left, so within an hour I was expecting some news, or maybe not expecting to know what had happened.

Knowing I cannot concentrate on work, I went on the office rooftop for some fresh air. I found two of my colleagues smoking there.

I was watching the people and traffic down below and thoughts returned to my driver. It was close to two hours since the guy had driven off; so I should hear something back soon. I stayed at the rooftop for 45 minutes just being blank. It was like meditating on a railway station platform. Lot of time had passed. I called the driver who was on way to my driver’s house. He picked up the phone after 5 attempts and about 100 rings. Each element of delay made me nervous. On picking the phone he said… well, I wish I could understand everything he said, “Sir, I have reached close to his house. I am eating. Long drive Sir, I was getting hungry. Hands dirty, so did not pick your call Sir!” Now, I could imagine this guy eating his heart out with the Rs. 500 I gave him while I was not feeling like eating at all, though I was famished. Nonetheless, I asked the guy how far he was from my driver’s house, to which he said, “Sir, place changed here. I have to ask for his place, Sir. I think one hour or two hour more and I will reach his house.”

I put the phone down and started surfing the web for nothing in particular. In between my wife called twice to enquire about the car and driver. We exchanged notes of comfort and “Whatever happens does happen for Good” phrase. While I put the phone down after speaking to the driver for the third time, my handset started ringing again. I picked it up casually and kept staring at the screen as if something hard had hit me. Flashing on the screen was my driver’s name, number and photograph.  I picked the call immediately and he said, “Saab, were you calling me?”

Continued in Part 3

It took me a minute to first be sure that the guy is calling by himself. I recognized his accent and urge to speak fast. The next statement was mine. “Raja, where are you?” to which I got his reply,  “Sir, you told me to GO HOME and I got very happy. You are such a nice person. As you told, I dropped you to office and went to my home. My wife got smiling and happy that I had come to home very early!” I was dumfounded, dumbstruck, dumb assed, dumb kicked…whatever word one can think as synonymous to insanity and dumbness. I closed my eyes for 10 seconds and thought about what I had last said to Raja. My words indeed were, “GO HOME…!” Whose home was the missing piece???

I well understood now that my innocent fellow had interpreted GO HOME as GO BACK TO HIS OWN HOME! The guy must have been overjoyed for a chance to enjoy a noon honeymoon at home. And now he was afraid that I may be calling to ask him to return. And I was also sure that during his honeymoon venture, he would have kept the phone off and so I was not able to reach him for the last so many hours. Next, I politely asked him, “Raja, was your phone switched off?” He said, “Sir I came home after a long drive, so maybe the phone battery went dead. I checked now and found the phone to be off.”

I was in such a situation that could not even decide what to say to him. So I asked him to just keep doing what he was busy with and come on time next morning. However, I started telling myself to make sure that I instruct to my driver everyday in the morning, “GO TO MY HOME AND DROP BABY TO SCHOOL AND THEN COME BACK TO MY OFFICE.” I was half smiling now at the episode when again my phone rang. “Sir, I reached your driver’s house. He is not home Sir, no one is home, house locked from inside.” I was about to shout at the guy asking if the house is locked from inside then how come no one is home. But I decided to let go. I was just relieved that my driver was fine and the other one was on his way back.

I called up home, narrated the episode to my wife and we enjoyed a good laugh mixed with embarrassment. It was four in the evening and my mind was no-where close to settling down for attending work. Around 5PM I packed-up for the day and left for home. I had to driver myself, no qualms about it. It took me a while to manoeuvre the traffic and reach our apartment. I went up, hugged my family, exchanged glances with folks at home before we burst our laughing. Our daughter had a perplexed and confused expression watching our behaviour.

The next day was a Saturday and in the morning my driver called me at 8AM. “Sir, I will get late because I must go to the temple today and pray for such a good person like you.” He was telling me that he will not surface before offering his prayers and will ask for our well being because we are very nice people! I did not know what to contest. His going to the temple? Praying for us? Or we are nice people? He had caught me in a web of nowhere to hide so I just blurted one word. “OK.”

He didn’t waste a minute in disconnecting the phone, lest I change my mind.

…The End…

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