People say maids and drivers are the hardest to get right in India. Retaining them for long is another story entirely. Surprisingly, my mom never had a problem with the maid. We’ve had a total of two maids in the past 24 years. Solid, right? But the same can’t be said about our drivers. We haven’t employed a driver in close to four years now, mainly because we couldn’t find anyone and after a point, we all decided to drive the cars ourselves.
We’ve had 17 drivers between 1998 and 2013. Here’s what happened to them.
He was a nice guy. For most of the time. Then he ran away with a girl, and the girl’s dad lodged a complaint with the police and he went to jail. Twice. He was still loyal to us but my dad was sceptical about sending me in the car alone with the guy after what he did.
He was a nice guy too. I became good friends with him. He took a week off once and came back one evening when I was playing with my friends. I asked him what’s up? He just smiled and went straight upstairs, told my mom he’s quitting and just left. Later I found out that he got a job with a better pay. I was silently unhappy that day.
He was hired as a second driver, and after a while, we decided we didn’t need two drivers. My school friend three streets away, who I carpooled with, was looking for a driver, and we recommended him to his family. He ended up staying with them for 10 years.
He drove a Maruti Omni like a Lorry. I puked almost every single time I got into the car thanks to his driving skills. Unsurprisingly, we sent him away in less than a year.
He used to come from somewhere beyond Guduvanchery by train, to work for us in Kodambakkam. As a result, he ended up coming late. He was great, but the school couldn’t handle me going late every day, and neither could we. So we had to let him go.
This guy was a unique character. I hated him from day 1, starting from his look and attire, with a stupid beard and run down clothes. He used to smoke beedi and started ruining our car with the stench and his long nails. Added to this, he farted silently non-stop (or maybe I was imagining it, coming to think of it now) and never opened his mouth. After relentless pressure from me, my dad decided to get rid of him (he was recommended by someone esteemed, apparently).
When I say Ranganathan, I can see your mind drawing a familiar face. Scratch that face, because this guy looked more like David Billa. He wore shades, had a stubble and dressed smartly. He used to work in Malaysia and then resettled in India. He would drop and pick me up from cricket practice in the evenings, plus also bowl to me in the nets. I don’t know why he left us. My mom says he’s gone back to Malaysia.
Should I include a guy who stayed with us for just two weeks? He still counts, right? So in his first week at work, he dropped me a few times to my keyboard class, carrying a large keyboard. Struggling would be a better term since he was really puny. I think he was overwhelmed by it and didn’t want to work at a place where he’s asked to carry a keyboard two floors up every day. He left.
He was a genuinely nice guy. He was from a small town in interior Tamil Nadu and knew farming and native practices. He taught me a lot of things, like how to drink the juice of a palm fruit (nungu) the right way, or how to spot a good watermelon. He went for a function to his hometown one weekend and broke his back while trying to lift something heavy. He quit driving as a result.
Here is an extraordinary case. He was the best friend of my maid’s son-in-law. At that point, we were so desperate to find a driver, that we decided to take him despite hearing rumours about his skills, which were limited to driving trucks interstate. Once he joined us, our fears were confirmed. He couldn’t drive a car to save himself. So we paid for and sent him to a driving school and he seemed to get slightly better over the next two months. One day, when we returned from a trip, he came to pick us up from the railway station. To our horror, we saw that the rear portion of our car didn’t look like it belonged to our car. It was smashed. He said a minivan crashed into the car when he was at the signal, and it was not his fault. We sent him away.
Saravanan II (2008-2009)
This was another Saravanan. His driving skills were never in question, but he was from Madurai. That’s your cue to assume he’d go pickup fights or participate in those that he didn’t belong in. You’re not wrong. After a point, he wanted to leave the city because some people were searching for him. He sent us a replacement, Arun.
Arun was the best driver we’ve had. I bonded with him really well, and we used to play games in the car or argue about the music on the radio. He was only 3 years older than me and slightly reckless but it suited me. He had his share of episodes. In a jam packed 100ft road at 8 am in the morning, he bumped into another car and got into a brawl. My sister and I were sitting inside while he went searching for a PCO to call my parents and inform them about the situation because he didn’t have balance on his phone. He randomly vanished one day, as his mother needed him in his hometown, but then we found a replacement. He came back two months later, but we had to send him away. He wasn’t the only one disappointed that day.
He was hired while Arun was still there, to drive my dad’s office car. He was great at driving. He took our car to 160 km/h for the very first time, and none of us sitting inside flinched one bit. He had an uncanny resemblance to actor Parthiban and was mostly silent. He joined a travels company after staying with us for less than two years. Six years on, Facebook has dug him up and is suggesting me to add him as a friend. Not creepy at all.
He was a pretty good driver but knew no routes. A Virugambakkam gang leader, with friends who were more like henchmen, it was all going fine until he got married. That’s when his attention turned to fighting with his wife. He used to bunk so many days, saying his kid was sick, or his wife left to her mother’s place and we needed to make alternate arrangements for school drops. He finally quit to get his family together.
He was the nicest guy of the lot. He was much older, very responsible and soft spoken. He stayed for a year and then bought his own car and joined NTL taxi. He came once or twice after that to greet us. Our neighbours used his taxi service once or twice on some long distance journeys. That company has died since but I’m sure he’s onto either Ola or Uber now.
The same Arun was back, but this time more sombre and responsible-looking. He heard that we were looking for a driver and showed up on our door one day. We took him, and he stayed for a year, but then found an enticing job in Dubai. We tried to convince him to stay but weren’t successful.
After hunting for a few weeks, we found this guy. He was also middle aged but didn’t carry the grace of Murugan. He was slightly erratic, not great at driving, but we needed him. One day, my mom told him off for not driving right, and he took offence and left.
Thus ended the great driver jinx. We haven’t employed a driver since and looks like that’s how it’s going to remain for the foreseeable future. Unless there emerges a brave soul who can step in and stay for more than two and a half years (yes, that record is still held by our very first driver, Senthil, closely followed by Arun at two years and four months at a stretch).