Random Musings on Vahan Chaalak(Drivers)

One of my favorite movies is Chupke Chupke, one of the only 3 movies featuring Dharmendra and Amitabh, the other two being Sholay and Ram Balram. In Chupke Chupke, Dharmendra is a Botany Professor who pretends to be a Hindi Speaking Vahan Chaalak or Driver . The movie is a laugh riot.

However this current blog post is not on movies but on the various types of drivers I have come across. Here goes;

The most common image of an Indian Bureaucrat is a non-AC White Ambassador Car with red beacon. All 4 points are together and concurrent. Non-AC, White , Ambassador and red beacon. Of late though, Ambassador  car has almost vanished. Judiciary has also made red beacon restricted to very very few. However Officers continue to have cars depending on their posts for functional reasons.

Staff Car and Operational Vehicles. Only very senior officers of the level of Joint Secretary to the Government of India are eligible for Staff Cars. Others are given Operational vehicles which include vehicles hired from vendors selected on the basis of an open tender. The advantage of operational vehicles for the Government is that they do not have to give permanent employment with salary, overtime etc and can simply give a contract to a vendor who provides a car with driver. Diesel, repairs etc are the vendors responsibility and in case of breakdown of vehicle, a replacement is given. Generally Government is restricting purchase of new cars and encouraging more hired cars for reasons of economy and convenience.

I have been using operational vehicles for several years now as the nature of my job is such that a vehicle is a must. I have observed different drivers and memories of some of them are as follows;.

The Height of Confidence Man (HCM). He was probably the best driver i have ever come across. Confident and smart, he was perfect in his duty as well. Whatever time he was assigned he would report. He was always chosen as pilot car driver of VVIP Visits . I call him the height of confidence man as he had the ability to park anywhere even in the most blatantly no-parking areas. In fact he often used to choose to park right next to No parking signs. The logic being that there would be no traffic jam/snarl and one can easily move on.

Now You will ask , did police not object ? Yes. they used to come up to him and he used to say something to them and usually they would smile at me and go away. I was mystified . Later the HCM told me that he used to tell them that I was a senior IPS officer and also brother of the then sitting West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi. ( Apparently I have a very strong resemblance). I asked him why You say IPS instead of IRS. and he replied “Sir, police ke saamne IPS ka vajan hai, IRS ka nahin” ( Sir, in front of police , IPS has value and not IRS)

I told him , please do not repeat as I dont want to be arrested for impersonation.

The Simpleton He was most relaxed, most simple. Problem is, he was so simple that he knew no roads, and was content in driving the car at a leisurely pace towards the destination, convinced that sooner or later we will reach. Well, we used to, but it was stressful. And one always had to be on watchout or one does not reach destination, and also start earlier than required.

The Businessman He was always on the cell phone, juggling the duty of his various cars under his disposal. He was himself an owner driver and also was owner of a few other cars and always was coordinating their movements. It was stressful for me, as my firm belief is that driving the car while talking on cell phone is same as driving when drunk.

The Boyfriend He was smart and well dressed. Every few days he would not come and send a substitute. When I asked why he would give an excuse and so would the substitute. After a few times, I asked sharply and one of the substitutes said, “Sir, whenever his girlfriend is free he doesnt come for duty” I was stunned. When i asked him, he confirmed and said that the girl is a college student from a very good family.

He is the only driver i have asked to be changed immediately without notice.

The Politician. He was from Bihar and very much upset with the system. He was also very much upset with the anti-Bihari and Anti-UP Sentiment in Mumbai and always used to go and attend meetings and so on. He was convinced he will be a top leader one day. All the best to him.

The 24 hour worker. His duty was excellent. However he always looked sleepy. One day i asked him why and he said that after operational duty here he used to drive whole night on duty of call centres. So he used to sleep whenever he had time. I felt unnerved.

The Student. His English was impeccable. On asking he said that he was the son of a taxi driver and had completed his graduation with 76% and was planning to study further. He said that his aim was to be Inspector in Income Tax or Central Excise and he was studying hard for it. I hope his dream comes true and he gets even better job than what he aspired for.

These are some random thoughts penned down. Hope You liked them.




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