Highway Jottings-7

Konsultramesh
5 min readMay 30, 2024

--

“Ram, Ram. Mera naam Mahesh Chandra Sharma, Morena. Haan. Madhya Pradesh se hai.”

Bright eyes. White hair. Receding hairline. Bespectacled. Clear voice. Trimmed white moustache. A pair of black trousers and a blue half-sleeved shirt. He could have effortlessly repositioned the armless chair facing me, where he sat for half an hour chatting. He didn’t. Why he didn’t try, I have no idea. But he was comfortable, it appeared. He was forthright and didn’t hesitate to correct me whenever I fumbled on numbers in Hindi. Nor did he demand the question be repeated for better understanding.

The venue was the driver training hall at R Sai Logistics yard in Manesar, Haryana. It is one of India’s leading car carrier companies, and my acquaintance with the company’s owner, Rohit Tomar, is over a decade old. More than him, my association with Sarfaroz Khan, driver supervisor stationed in Chakan, Pune, near the Tata Motors manufacturing plant, is stronger through regular phone interactions and yard visits. Plus, I had lunch with his family in Lucknow several summers ago. Another link with R Sai Logistics is the veteran ex-Maruti Suzuki driver trainer Kamal Kishore Dargan, who has been with this company for over 7–8 years.

Braving the sweltering Delhi heat, I drove to Dargan’s yard-cum-operational centre after a long time. That’s where I ran into Mahesh Chandra Sharma, who walked in to interact with the driver coordinators at the other end of the same hall.

Sharma’s career has been impeccable. For 42 years, he has been steering goods across the ribbon of highways from Delhi to Kanyakumari and elsewhere. No accidents yet. Touchwood. A stickler for rules. He prefers solo driving. Regular six in the morning to nine at night with small breaks for pet pooja. A strict vegetarian.

No smartphone for this smartest sarati. A tiny old Nokia is his travel companion. On second thoughts, there are still others escorting him! No kalasi, he claims. Yet he has saathis? Puzzled, indeed.

What do you mean, Sharmaji? I poke him.

“How dare you say I am always alone in the cabin?”

I notice the changed tenor of voice. His eyebrows expand, revealing a greyish iris with a dark, tiny black pupil geometrically stationed in the centre amidst a more moist sclera (white portion).

Sharmaji does not play high-decibel Hindi/Bhojpuri songs while driving to beat the sannata (silence) inside the cabin. I’m curious whether his favourite Ashok Leyland trucks have provisioned a music system. Unlikely. Nor does he store songs in his Nokia. I am 100 per cent certain.

Sharmaji is a long-haul truck driver, so I am eager to figure out how he handles the silence of the cabin. This is what I wrote in my maiden book, 10,000Km on Indian Highways (2011):

“Miles passed without a word.

I stopped reading John Grisham’s The Confessions (page 182). Rev. Keith Schroeder is at the wheel, and murderer Travis Boyette is seated next to him as they dash towards Dallas, Texas, to save an innocent man from capital punishment. Two passengers are travelling with a deadline. One a priest and the other a murderer.

I stopped because I could not help correlating my experience over the past eight months in the company of drivers and assistants over 10,000 kilometres on Indian highways. There was an eerie silence most of the time. I am talking by nature. Silence, like a vacuum, I hate.

Now, you understand my query to Sharmaji. His response was razor-sharp and quick.

“Stop. I was never alone. Bhagwan hai mera saath. Hamesha. Aur my guru Maharaj bhi. They are always with me. (God is always with me. And my Guru). “

Lightning struck me. Is Sharmaji a truck driver or some gyani dishing out wisdom in simple words? Very profound thoughts, indeed. How effortlessly it came out. I remain tongue-tied for how long; I have no clue. His constant “Ram, Ram” chant is his communication channel with the Superpower, the Almighty.

“I do not need a kalasi as a companion in the cabin. I am comfortable. When you’ve Parameshwar himself as a fellow-traveller, why look for others?” No stopping him. Sharmaji is no fake charlatan. His connection with the invisible supreme master is strong.

The man from Morena who ran away from home after being beaten black and blue for failing in class eighth examinations by his father and taken to truck driving is not in that league of pursuing the eternal truth through one of the four Upanishad-prescribed yogas. An ordinary, simple bloke.

God as his companion! A guide. Sharmaji refers to him as langoti yaar (bosom pal). A friend.

“He is there always. He will remain even after I leave this world.” Again, it is him. His identification with Him is complete. Yaamirukka bayam yen? Why fear when I am here? “I” stands for the Almighty. This is what my grandparents taught me.

Suddenly, the five-stanza Manishapanchakam* composed by Adi Sankaracharya resurfaces. An outcaste (Chandala) questions the Great Saint when asked to move away from the path in Benares so the holy man can walk through undefiled.

“Is it not the same Brahman that resides in you and mine? Tell me, are you asking the Brahman to move away or me?” Sankaracharya, the advocate of non-dualistic Hindu philosophy, was flummoxed and realized his folly. Manishapanchakam is the outcome of that Chandala interface on the narrow gullies of Benares.

Sharmaji and his Maker are in communion with each other, no doubt. One can be less educated like Sharmaji, the truck driver, but nurse and nurture profound thoughts on a philosophical plane.

Things happen on their own. Sharmaji was never on my radar that day or earlier. Until I met him, he did not exist for me. Dargan was the destination, but the journey took a different turn, enabling me to be enamoured by Sharmaji.

Did I spend time with Dargan? Very little. That may warrant another rendezvous with him in future. Undecided, yet.

Ref:

https://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_z_misc_shankara/manishhaa5.html

--

--

Konsultramesh

An avid watcher & practitioner in the world of communication