Auttoman Empire of Dahli

Monday, October 09, 2017

I started my weekend with hiring Subhash.

Subhash, a grandfather to two kids, is an auto rickshaw driver in Delhi. He's seen better days, he says. The kind where his grandfather worked as a clerk at some government division, and he too was promised a job. The one which he never picked.

Ambitions are the end of us all. It doesn't matter what caste, creed, colour, sex, or even social strata. If, like Subhash, you have ambitions, be prepared to feel bad about being downtrodden all your life.

Much like me. A research scholar in cinema, people don't understand why I did, what I did. I don't understand their ignorance. They win, because they are all hiring managers, brand managers, business development managers, manager managers.

I'm a glorified Editor of sorts. Add some prefixes to that, it doesn't mean nothing. At least that's the sense I get. The day I feel satisfied, is the day I'll rest in my grave. To be alive, is to be digging with your fingertips, deeper until you scratch the surface of satisfaction. The deeper you go, the better it feels. Just the idea of being in constant motion. Which is what brought Subhash and me to the level of exchanging phone numbers.

Subhash, a Gujjar, lives in Tughalakabad Extension in Delhi. He's from around here. Born and raised, grew up in the same place. Our similarities baffle me. We're both at strife with peace. He has a son, who he trained in Hotel Management. The son works at a prominent five star hotel. He also received an Alto Car in dowry, which he doesn't drive. Bike will be cheaper, my son tells me, says Subhash. Almost as if, he's embarrassed on his son's behalf. Even less for himself, for driving the auto and ferrying people like me around.

Me? I was carrying two half full bottles of Vodka on me. Half an hour past my dinner time, when Subhash asked me to pay him ten additional bucks over and above the usual fare, I said no. Then I said yes, before he could agree to my price. "It's a Friday night. I look like a million bucks. I'm meeting the people I love to death. I can pay ten extra bucks, sure, make someone's evening." Sulking as I was about the uncredited salary and having no money, I found a friend in Subhash who was even less glum about having made less than five hundred rupees that day.

Subhash, a Congress party supporter, hesitantly told me he voted for Modi. His entire family, all his friends, his neighbours and everybody he knew voted for Modi in 2014. He was asked to do the same by the people he lived with. And so he did.

"Do you regret doing that?" I tried my best to make him talk. His soft spoken candour turned to a loud mouthed Punjabi aunty's as he distrated me by saying how the cops suck monkey balls (in the Haryanvi equivalent of those words) and are the reason why we were stuck at a signal for over an hour. It didn't help our case when he got a call from this Good Guy who he drops on regular basis. It didn't help my case when he pointed at the location where he picks that guy from, daily- outside the house of a guy I dated.

The Good Guy, though from Bihar, is very well educated and a good person at heart, Subhash informed me. He also told me about this professor who is from Rajasthan and around my age (early 30s he speculated) and gets dropped to the university in the morning.

Subhash, a retired gentleman, rents out autos to other individuals and that helps him run the household. His son makes some from the Hotel on the side and together they keep the family afloat. While filled with equal part guilt and equal part regret about not making it big, Subhash wants to continue driving. He doesn't care much about dignity of labour, although he does like his work enough to do the same thing every day from 7 am to 9 pm, all through the year.

Subhash's quite patriarchal while being ever so liberal together. It's a combination enjoyed exclusively by Delhi men and Subhash is no different. He insisted that I should get married. "But who will marry me?" I cried in my defence as the signal hit red and we missed our chance to escape the traffic the fifth time.

"Don't you have friends?"

Subhash hit a nerve. I had half a mind to tell him that all my friends deserted me and have new and fabulous lives in different cities, but I kept mum and nodded in disapproval. In my head, my answer was, "Negative, Subhash". Nobody's marrying me, I'm marrying nobody. That boat was never meant for me, and my committment phobic self anyway. However, like his political act, I didn't really find words to explain myself without making myself sound like a total asshole. Never reveal your asshole self to anyone who's driving you around, rule of thumb.

At this point, he and I had run out of conversation to make. But we had two kilometers of distance to cover in 30 whole minutes. I didn't mind it one bit, except that I was starving and thirsty and upset at the fact that I'd forgotten my Ruby Woo at home. Selfies will have to be done before I hit the dinner and I was an hour late for my dinner at that point.

Subhash too got a call from the Good Guy to have him picked from the same spot (kill me already), after which we only discussed politics and the cops, both of which, if I reveal about won't leave him in a state to drive his auto rickshaw and me, with a well paying job ever.

We parted our ways after spending good hour and a half to cover a four kilometer distance, all thanks to the same set of people Subhash's family forced him to vote for, and the one that my family was never up for.

The decision we make come to haunt us, be it our career choices, or our votes.

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