Sunday, March 09, 2014

Every Taxi driver has a tale

A professional’s corporate life has its fair share of travel due to business meetings. You tend to take flights, trains, taxi’s, tube trains, trams, bicycle rickshaws at a short notice seamlessly to get to your office or customer office for that important meeting. Taxi’s are more commonly used form of road transportation especially within a new city or big city as they get you from point a to point b in the least amount of time. Last week was a crazy week for me. Balancing the act between three escalations and a bid deal submission, I was more immersed in work than anything else. Since my wife was in India on an unplanned trip, the conference calls, emails and other work which started at 10am in the morning never ended until 1.00 am. On Tuesday, I decided to work from the city in the first half and then head down to the customer location in one of the remotest sections of outer Sydney for the second half. I walked past our building to the nearest Taxi rank and got inside the first available one.

The gentleman driving the car was Asian looking – probably Chinese/ Indonesian and instantly welcomed me in with a warm and friendly smile. Once we agreed on the destination and the route to get there – using two of the Motorways, I switched on my laptop and immersed myself in preparation for the customer meetings which would begin the next hour. I couldn’t help but notice the glances from the Taxi driver onto the rear view mirror searching for the right time to strike a conversation. The first 45 minutes of the journey, I couldn’t help but complete my work ignoring the curious glances and silent eye requests for the conversation. He then broke the ice by offering to switch on the air conditioner on a warm Sydney afternoon and asked me to roll up the windows. I politely declined the same once I realized that the seat belt restrained me from rolling up the car windows manually on the other side of the rear seat.

He was inquisitive to know how long I was in Sydney, what I was working on and whether I needed a taxi on my way back. I slowly warmed up to his politeness and polished demeanor and also fired questions on similar topics from my end. After all, this is one of those moments when you can safely immerse in conversations outside of your known circle of customers and colleagues to understand the cultural fabric of a city and country.

John as he liked to call himself was born in an island of Indonesia and was well traveled. He was nearing the sixties, but his forehead had almost all strands black than the salt and pepper donning my forehead. He was in the IT industry earlier – spent over five years in the US completing his education and working on the hardware installment/ procurement for Mainframe computers. He used to install, repair and maintain the big tape drives which used to be at the heart of Mainframe computers before the smaller and smarter devices made them redundant. After US, his Asean roots took him to Singapore on a job with Citibank for over 15+ years across various roles. He was finally made redundant with a wave of change in the economy and got his redundancy package – a handsome amount.

He got his PR processed and migrated to Australia about ten years back. After doing odd jobs for the initial years, he decided to be his own Boss by having a Taxi and ferrying people across Sydney day in and day out. He had a warmth and sense of humor throughout the conversation and had a bonding to Indians. Having been brought up in Indonesia, his father was from Bali – a predominantly Hindu bastion. His father was a Christian and mother a Muslim and he considered himself to be a moderate Muslim. He found Hindu’s of Bali’s good friends and helpful. He said you can leave a bag in a market place in Bali and someone will find you to hand it over to you. But outside Bali, the bag will disappear and you may never find it again. He knew the clear demarcation between Hindus , Tamils and has grown up amongst Indians and enjoys the cuisine.

One of his regrets was not getting into the software side of IT industry, which could have gotten him more money, satisfaction and job security. While I tried to counsel and argue that no job was safe in today’s world – in retrospect I wondered what will be our future a few years down the line? I arrived at my destination and handed him my Corporate Card to pay the fare and while we waited for the authorization to go through we both were in conversations but in our own worlds. John was probably looking back at thirty years of his life and summarizing his professionally journey and sharing regrets of what he couldn’t work on. I was staring at a future of next thirty years of my professional life and wondering which way the winds of global uncertainties, career opportunities and future knowledge industries will steer the boat of my professional life.

His parting line which woke me up from my train of thoughts was “Have a good day sir! I call myself “India + One”. Seeing my puzzled expression he said “Break up Indonesia – it is India (plus) one in Asia”! I quickly smiled and rushed in past the rolling doors to get immersed in another half day of meetings, escalations, negotiations and more business!


Prachi Karkhanis said...

Nice read...definitely forms a chain of thoughts of reflections and anticipations..

You have also very well explained how tend to miss out on enriching opportunities like these to engage and understand our fellow human beings in the daily rut...

Atreya rocks said...

Thanks Prachi! It sometimes makes us forget or ponder over our own ways to deal with our life!