My driver is this really nice guy who complains a bit too much, and is about as lazy as I was until a few years ago when opportunities began to come my way. He lives in one of the most infamous urban slums here in Bhubaneswar with his wife and young son. He didn't want to be anyone or go anywhere, and I can't tell whether his hopes and dreams have been killed or just never arose. At least hopes and dreams as understood by my brain, sub-consciously conditioned as it has been by a life of unnoticed privilege.
I was summoned into the main office today, and asked where I got my driver. I shrugged, since it was the way everyone seems to 'get' their part-time maids, drivers, and other fixtures of bourgeois and upper class Indian homes: referral by the another driver or part time maid.
Exhausting local dynamics
Turns out this driver had abruptly left the services of a newspaper owner, by dint of which newspaper owning he goes from being a common thug to a powerful presence in the local social market. The ex-employer called up "high up" people in the State Secretariat and said my boss was sabotaging his newspaper enterprise because he had smeared my boss with verbal insult for months at end, and would get back at my boss for this. The "high up" people in the State Secretariat both wanted in on the gossip and were vague well-wishers of my boss, so they called him to apprise him of the ex-employer's ire. The boss called me in and asked me to dismiss my driver. "Tell him to go fall at the ex-employer's feet". If he didn't want to return to work there, my driver needed some kind of a release letter so he could be released into the job market again, hopefully this time with a new employer that wasn't engaged in a drawn out feud with the ex-employer. So I had to dismiss my driver.
The young man was upset and said he didn't want to fall at the feet of someone who had mistreated him. Why should he? He hadn't stolen from his ex-employer. I cried at the injustice of it all. The driver cried because he had put me in trouble. Everyone made a scene. Some comforted me, while an entire gang of drivers and office assistants comforted the driver. The gossip lasted a couple of days. Long faces. Especially sad was the young boy who works as a security guard in our office and who had immediately befriended my driver. They used to sit for hours in comfortable, companionable silence while I worried about the waste of their human potential.
* * *
That's it really. That ends my involvement in it all. About 2 weeks later, my driver called me to ask how I was. He was very happy. The ex employer had shouted at him, said he wouldn't allow him to work for anybody else without making his life hell (more eloquently, jeena haraam as they say here). But when my driver hung his head and said he'd go back to his village because what else could he do, the ex-employer decided to raise his salary to more than twice what he had paid him earlier (he paid him Rs. 3500 earlier, I paid him Rs. 6500, and now he ended up with Rs. 7500) plus extra days of leave. My driver couldn't have planned for things to go better.