Highway Jottings-2

Konsultramesh
4 min readMay 12, 2024

(CLICK this link to read HIGHWAY JOTTINGS-1 — https://rb.gy/a01y54)

The Gurgaon-Jaipur stretch (National Highway 48) holds a special place in my heart. Since 2010, I have traversed this route numerous times, not as a mere traveler, but as a companion to the long-haul truck drivers. These journeys have gifted me with profound insights into the remarkably resilient lives of these drivers.

But it was the first time on a bus. The trip was not supposed to be long but short. Take the bus a few kilometres and alight wherever truckers are sighted. Then explore the terrain:

  • How friendly these surroundings are.
  • What kind of facilities are provided?
  • How good the trucker-friendly dhabas are.

These dhabas, often the sole source of sustenance and respite for truck drivers, are meant to cater to their needs. However, the reality often falls short of their expectations, leading to a profound sense of neglect and frustration that is hard to ignore.

‘Koi sunta hi nahi’ is the constant refrain. What they mean is that they are heard with almost no reaction. Neglected? Mostly. Who do they interact with? That’s a good question. When they wait for loads outside factory gates or unload cargo brought from vendors, they interact with the security guards or gatekeepers, often with a military background.

The uniformed ex-fauji background of these gatekeepers often leads to a power dynamic that does not favour the truck drivers. The less said about their behaviour towards truck drivers, the better. Appearance matters a lot. Unlike the guards, drivers are not dressed properly. Unkempt hair. Unshaven cheeks. Tired eyes. Chappals, yes. Not the polished boots worn by the gatekeepers.

Drivers do not expect royal treatment at the factory gates (materials gate) but a gentle and humane approach. A smile and a greeting such as ‘Kaise ho?’ as the drivers lean over the window to gain entry into the manufacturing facility premises would be cherished. Not too much to ask for. Basic human courtesy.

This simple act of respect can go a long way in improving their experience. The need for better facilities and treatment is not just a desire, it’s a necessity for these hardworking individuals. Otherwise, all the talk of transporter and drivers are part of value chain by end users is sheer bunkum. Hypocrisy.

With a Buddha-like stoicism, drivers gulp such insult(?) or “talk to my hand” interaction. “Yeh jaante nahi hai hum us se do gunaa, teen guna kama te hai. Phir be, dekhi ye unka nazariya!” I heard such comments in pain-soaked voices. Only a heartless person could approve of such treatment.

The next interaction will be the logistics clerk (sorry, executive. These days, there are no clerks. All executives!). How soon that will transpire is anyone’s guess. You’re not the only truck and driver who entered the premises for loading or unloading. Wait.

“Bilaspur wale, utro,” shouts the red and white check shirted conductor.

I come out of my mental cobwebs and join the queue on the aisle to exit. It is not a proper bus stop. There is no shelter, and there is no signage. The only indication that it is a bus stop is the innumerable food stalls with no seating arrangements. And the noisy environment.

“Aap ticket diya nahi mujhe!” I tell the conductor. He smiles. Actually, I demand one.

Zaroorat nahi hai, tells a co-passenger exiting along with me. Aap to Bilaspur paunch gaye na! Agreed. How does the bus owner keep track of the cash generation from each trip? Needless thought. Why should I worry? It is between the owner and his staff.

Once on the ground, I look around. The highway has been dug up, and traffic is slow-moving on both sides of the dusty highway. Always a work in progress on highways. Something or other keeps happening, restricting free flow.

Soft particles of sand lift, disturbing the surroundings at the knee level. I cover my nostrils with my hands. It is hot. I retrieve my sunglasses to fight the harsh light. A few metres away, the tall HPCL mast greets me. Also visible is the Chetak Logistics signboard. Oil marketing companies and retail outlets whose maximum earnings come from fuel sales to trucking are on my radar.

Chetak Logistics, one of the leading car carriers in India, is another area of interest. I am interested in it not only because of the release of its founder Jai Karan Sharma’s biography, The Logistics Man of India, by his youngest son Sachin Haritash, co-authored with an ex-Maruti Suzuki PR honcho, Arun Arora, but also because of my long association with the car carrier vertical. Well, a copy of this biography occupies my working desk now.

(More to come)

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Konsultramesh

An avid watcher & practitioner in the world of communication