Southern Sojourn-2

Left to Right: Nijum Riyaz, Y Raghuram Sharma, self and Mohammad Ali (yellow & black T-shirt)

It was a short trip (21–25 November 2022). But the most hectic and fruitful tour to further the cause of truck drivers. All taqawat (tiredness/fatigue) seems to be nowhere in sight as I unbundle my holdall and try to hit the bed. No way.

What a huge reservoir of wisdom and the amount of learning I tried to grasp —”tried” is the right word — in three days of interaction out of five days’ travel to Hyderabad and Bengaluru.

The biggest revelation was the IIT-Kharagpur alums (till I met him, I never knew his IIT-K past!) Mohammed Ali, ex-Head of Ashok Leyland Driver Training, has enrolled in the Ramoji Film Institute for a course in acting! No doubt, he has set his eyes on the filmdom.

Ali, the holder of numerous diplomas and certificates in various project management arenas, is on a massive educational journey and wants to polish his presentation skills. I love his “combat to corporate’ slogan. Best of luck, Mr. Ali!

On the one hand, discipline, punctuality, and behavior and truck drivers, on the other, don’t go together. Sircilla/Telengana-based Nijum Riyaz heading the Driver Training Institute on behalf of Ashok Leyland in the prestigious constituency of Telangana CM’s son K T Rama Rao (minister of urban development etc.), is on a mission to groom the army of wannabe LMV/HMV drivers right.

We spent a couple of hours at this institution of excellence. Imagine listening to his almost non-stop flow of gems of wisdom from Kazipet railway station (130km) and again from his institute to Secunderabad (another 130km) the next morning. I am truly lucky to know him. My only regret is that it was not several years earlier.! Thanks a tonne, Mr. Riyaz!

Yellapantulu Raghuram Sharmaji is another gem in my net. In 2015, I opposed his induction into driver-focused activities citing that his career background as an Instructor of Cabin Crew of Indian Airlines for 30-plus years does not suit grooming truck drivers. He proved me wrong and made me eat crow! Now he is a freelancer on Driver Training on soft skills. An asset to be tapped by the Centre For Driver Relationship Management (CDRM), a for-profit Community Engagement Specialist organization anchored by yours truly.

How can I miss not meeting Sharmaji? I did. Managed to put Mr. Riyaz and Sharmaji in the same frame and shot a beautiful video interview to be YouTubed under Highway Jottings program soon. (Kausar, the ball is in your court!), under the watchful eyes of erstwhile Indian Airlines cabin crew colleague and Sharmaji’s spouse, Lathaji! She almost killed us with her hospitality during the 2-hour stay at her duplex bungalow.

Well, our rail ride from Secunderabad to Bengaluru was smooth. Can you believe that between 0600 hours, when he arrived at the Bangalore City Station and returned 12 hours later to catch the Delhi Rajdhani Express from the same station, we met at least six key personalities in a mad rush? A few cups of filter coffee and biscuits kept us hydrated until we knocked on the Food Track stall at the railway station after sunset.

More about the rollercoaster ride in Bengaluru in the next dispatch.

See you soon.

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