He’s finally off. After five years of driving me around, doing endless errands and odd jobs, listening to me rave and rant about various irritants – and even counselling me with some offbeat advice – Naushad, my driver, my adopted son (or as my husband teases me – he Rahul Gandhi; you Sonia Gandhi) – and my friend – leaves for better prospects.
He claims he is off to the ‘gaon’ to help his Uncle with their land. I suspect he plans to look for a wife though, for as bizarre as this sounds, he claims no one wants to give their daughters to a driver! His plan is to probably pretend to be a farmer, get married, and then transform into a driver again. Apparently, a common phenomenon in his part of the world.
I was looking for a driver soon after Ishaan was born, and he landed up one morning at my doorstep with his father, a tailor, who we knew over the years. They had heard we were looking for a driver, and Naushad, fresh out of driving school and working as a poorly paid and over-worked mechanic’s helper in a garage, was willing to do just about anything to escape that job.
He was a gangly, fresh-faced youth – with an innocence and childish simplicity that could have been mistaken for stupidity. I suspect he was considered to be a bit of a goof (his buck teeth didn’t help) and he had that look of someone used to being bullied and pushed around. Because I knew his father – and was desperate – I took him on.
He turned out to be a careful driver and was a willing learner. He obediently began to change his socks and have a bath every day, after we had noticed him wearing the same things to work repeatedly and tactfully mentioned it to him. His sense of direction was good, though he couldn’t remember names very well.
Till this day, I have to tell him – ‘To the doctors. The one next to our old store in Indiranagar,’ instead of telling him to drive to Dr Vidya’s clinic.
He is also very good with my kids. Ishaan and Laila love him and good old ‘Naushi’ is their friend, with whom they play, fight – and bully for candy. In fact, he is the one who helped Ishaan learn to cycle recently and has always been responsible and caring with the children (I know that he will be at the bus-stop to pick Ishaan up even if I forget!)
Over the years, Naushad has changed beyond recognition. From getting his only sister married, to dressing smartly and holding his own with others, to learning to read, albeit haltingly, to negotiating with people and taking a call when required – he has become quite the pin-up boy for drivers! How often I have had friends ask me to find them someone ‘just like him’.
When I look back, all I can say is that apart from his inborn good nature, there was huge potential, just waiting to be tapped. Sometimes we just have to give people a chance, some space, and a whole lot of patience to see them bloom and come into their own.
Alas, all good things come to an end and so has his run with us. Farewell ‘Naushi’. May you be happy and successful wherever you go. You will be sorely missed.
p.s. I can only imagine his reaction if I were to tell him that I wrote something about him. Ever practical and most un-sentimental, he would probably say in his self-effacing manner – ‘Kaiku madam? Is ki kya zaroorat thi? Aap ko mujh se accha driver mil jayega.’ (Why madam? What is the need for this? You will get a much better driver than me.)