It's getting real. Sold our car today and was the last day with our driver Lokesh who has been with us for over a year and a half….I didn't realize that when John said we would start with our new Shell appointed driver today that that meant me too!
Hard to explain the relationship between me and my driver. We are lucky that we have only had two drivers during our almost 3 years here, and both were very good experiences although our first driver quit unexpectedly to pursue a personal dream (we were sad to see him leave, but happy he was pursuing his goals). Back to the relationship with my driver. I depend on him daily, and sometimes resent the dependency that I have on him, but here in India, when you choose not to drive, your driver will be the most important "staff" member in your life. Not only does he get you and your family to and fro to every place you need to be, (work, school, stores, friends homes, i.e. basically anytime you need to leave your home) he is also privy to our conversations, to our moods, to every thing that is going on in our lives. He's also a huge source of information and I've been seriously shocked at alot of things he knows before we do (murder of a prominent man in our neighborhood, the pilates class was moving out of Whitefield building-he knew before my pilates instructor!) and I could go on and on and on…..
So being told that today was my last day with my driver (to be fair john told me this yesterday only my jet lagged mind didn't compute) was like telling me that I was losing my right hand. That is pretty much how it felt. And believe me that was a surprise to me too, because for some reason, though I knew we were going to sell our car, and start saying goodbye to our staff members, I wasn't mentally prepared for it to happen so soon. And certainly wasn't prepared to start the goodbyes with our driver.
Lokesh has seen me laugh, he's seen me cry, he's seen me in rages. He's heard me sing he's seen me dance in the car. He's seen me with make up with no makeup, at my best and at my worst. He was my driver, plain and simple, good days and bad, he was there right along with me (with us) in the thick of it.
He worked for our family but he reported to me on a daily basic because it is I who manage our home and who will decide the agenda of each day's outing after he drops the hubs and kid off to work and school, to him I was always "Madame" and basically he knew it was me he had to do a good job for or he'd be out of one.
But you see he's been more than just a driver to us. He's been an unofficial second baby sitter to Bruce when I just needed to pop into a store for a few seconds, he's taken Bruce out for McDonald's on those days that I just didn't want to get in the car. He was instrumental in helping us teach Bruce how to ride a bike, and he played basketball, cricket, whatever games Bruce wanted to play when John was working and other kids weren't around and I was busy doing other things. He seems to know when I need him to let me just space out in the car and not be bothered. He also knows my favorite songs on the radio and will turn up the volume when one comes on. Every day on our outings he opens my door though I constantly tell him it's not necessary I secretly like that he remains chivalrous. I can't remember the last time I had to carry anything heavy to the car….he always anticipates when I am about to leave a store and heads me off to carry the bags.. Those things have been really pleasant and helpful to me as I struggle with my back issues. I truly realized how much I depended on him to know our schedule, to get us wherever we needed to be on time and safely, to be around and help with whatever needed doing along with his driving role. His role was so varied and so vast that I don' think I could sit here and list off all the things he did for us while under our employ.
I can tell you that I haven't always loved having a driver. Sometimes his breathing or his good morning salutations got on my nerves. But then again sometimes John's does too. There were so many times when I just wanted to jump in the car and drive, BY MYSELF. But he was intuitive and knew my moods and would gage the radio volume and chit chat accordingly. That was sooooo important to me cuz as much as I like to chat, I don't always want to. John never wants to talk in the morning and isn't much of a talker. Our driver knew that and never pushed it with him. I know John appreciated that too.
I like to believe that i have always been kind and generous but there are times when I know I have also been a pain in the ass to work for.
I remember when I first got here and went shopping at Hypercity for the first time I was amazed at how many western women I saw "married to Indian men". All around me were women who were obviously foreigners accompanied by Indian men, when it finally dawned on me, with my Indian driver right next to me pushing my grocery cart, that those men were their drivers, not their husbands. Yes, this one is a little slow times, and in the beginning I had no clue how important the role of our driver would play in our lives, had no idea at the time how the whole "driver/madam relationship" would evolve. Clueless of how valuable he was going to be in our daily lives. In the beginning it was Shankar, and he was a really good guy and good driver and set the bar high as he was a really good driver to have our first year here. From the start of year two till now it's been Lokesh. Had no idea how much I would rely on the ease of our relationship and the lack of having to give him directions or even name the places we were going, mostly when I would direct him to in the mornings, my directions began with, "do you remember when we met with my blonde friend Beth and we went to that coffee place in Karamangala?" He would answer, "yes, yes, Costa coffee, okay madam" and would rattle off how long it would take in traffic that day. Seriously, I don't know that I ever used to names of the locations we were going to, cuz all I would have to say is, "okay, going to get groceries at that store that has the stairs that do down, or need to go to that store where I bought the good cheese, and so on and so on. Truthfully, I don't know how he kept all that info stored in his head. It was a kind of just weird way we had of communicating and it worked for us. So imagine how I felt when boom, car sold, my driver gone.
The goodbye was kind of awkward too. Indian men don't hug women here, or at least not in public and especially women who are not their wives. I'm a hugger and though i felt like a hug was in order, I restrained myself because well you just don't do that here. Gifts were given and we made plans for him to come by one more time before he starts his new job and before we leave. Hugs were given between he and Bruce. Lots of them. More to come I'm sure when he visits tomorrow.
I began the beginning of this post yesterday (my Tuesday) and I'm finishing this Thursday morning at 4:22 a.m., (yes having trouble sleeping). So as of time of this post, I have spent one full day without Lokesh and instead with the company appointed "rental car & driver. And boy do I miss Lokesh. The new driver although nice and a capable driver doesn't speak English as well as Lokesh and trying to get us to our normal every day places with me the one giving directions was complicated and frustrating. Who am I kidding even if he would have been exceptional, I probably would have found fault in him because he's really not "my driver".
I dread finishing up the week without "my driver" Lokesh, but am comforted in the knowledge that we were able to secure a good job for him with a nice "new family" who have recently arrived in Bangalore. I hope the experience he has had with us will help him with his new family and that they will be happy with him too.
More than anything I sincerely hope that working with our family was a good experience for him, and that when he thinks on us he will do so fondly.
Yup. The countdown is on, and this is really happening. Nine more days left in India. The goodbyes continue…