Southern Sojourn-4

Twelve hours and six meetings in the congested Cyber capital of India. Some inside residence. Some in an upmarket coffee shop. Some in the chamber of a judge. Some inside a petrol pump. Some on the roadside. Some inside canteen in a crowded government office complex.

Mind you, and not a single paise slipped out of our hands. All at the host’s expense! Except for the first filter coffee at Food Track at the entry/exit of Bangalore City Station and again a light refreshment before entering the station to catch our 22691 Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express around six in the evening.

Lunch? What was that? We had no time for such events on the 24th of November, 2022. We were like on an electioneering campaign trail. Coffee/Tea and biscuits kept us alive.

Okay, where to begin? Ahmedabad-based transporter, long-time friend, and well-wisher Kamal Dogra ensured we had an Innova entire day at our disposal. From Bangalore station to Bangalore station. A round trip with multiple halts. Thanks, Kamalji!

The maiden halt was at Selvan Dasaraj’s Whitefield residence — a 90-minute ride in the early morning traffic. Roads were not empty but easily navigable. Though I had visited him at the same housing complex a year ago, the same block and flat number slipped out of my mind, delaying the mulaqat by 15 minutes with the security at the gate to his society refusing entry.

Finally, his brother-in-law and an ex-colleague Raghuram Sharma whose flat it was, came to our rescue. Then the ordeal of waiting outside the flat began. Why? Dasaraj was deep asleep, perhaps after watching the Qatar-hosted World Cup Football live telecast the previous night.

He would emerge subsequently and host us with his customary tall glasses of hot coffee and some imported biscuits. Until a year ago, we were partners in Transport Mitra. No longer. He has gone his way to advise and is part of Bengaluru-based Osmo Logistics. I revived my more than a decade-old KRK Associates, which was in hibernation except for handling my media work. Thus came the Centre For Driver Relationship Management (CDRM). Technically speaking, both Dasaraj and I are in the same domain. Competitors? Not at all. The vast field needs more players, but only some are willing because this job demands travel and mixing with the much-neglected and ignored truck drivers.

For the return journey back to Delhi, he pulled strings to get our waitlisted Tatkal tickets confirmed. Thanks, Selvan!

We discussed possible alliances and left for the next meeting, which was supposed to be at the Yashwantpur truck terminal. But the maddening and slow-moving Bengaluru city traffic decided otherwise, forcing us to divert to another meeting in Brigade Road with the Bosch team on their unique Driver Happiness Index discussion. Bhavika Asnani chose Starbucks on Church Street, bang opposite the building where I began my publishing career 46 years ago. Macmillan India does not exist there anymore.

Hungry Kausar was fed with some bread item and coffee. Me too. The discussion with Bosch’s Parthu Balina though short, was fruitful.

We rushed out for the next one in Kempe Gowda Circle in the city. Hardly 20 minutes in normal traffic conditions, which seldom exists. On the way, we picked two silk shawls. One for the next meeting.

Srivasailam IAS (Retd), the first Special Secretary (Logistics) of Govt of India and currently serving on the benches of Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal. We were late by 15 minutes, but the next two hours vanished swiftly with him, the Chief Mentor of CDRM, discussing the way forward with Karnataka Transport Secretary, another IAS officer, and a transport department senior official. The topics: what else but the creation of wayside amenities for long-haul truck drivers across Karnataka?

After two rounds of coffee and biscuits, we rushed out. The first shawl was for him, as this was our maiden meeting after CDRM was formed, with him guiding us.

We came to catch up with an urban planner, Veena Guruprasadh, who had sought CDRM assistance for a Bengaluru-specific truck driver facilities-related project. We chose an empty four seater canteen space to discuss without ordering any food. Subsequently, she promised to host a coffee next time. Thanks, Veena!

Then we dashed to Yashwantpur Truck terminal for the postponed meeting with Channa Reddy, Honorary President of Acogoa, a national transport lobby group. We have known each other since 2010. After the passing away of my transport guru late, Chittaranjan Dass, who held the post of Secretary General of Acogoa in 2015, we lost touch, and now that is being revived.

And then the meeting with Arvind Mittal, a Gurgaon-based logistician and now shifted to Bengaluru, happened. He happened to be in the vicinity, and so we decided to meet. We spent 15 precious minutes standing in the concourse of the BPCL pump, owned by Reddy, discussing the last mile delivery challenges as Mittal happened to be serving one such pan India company with Bengaluru as headquarters.

Still no food. Just filter coffee and biscuits.

The clock was ticking, and we decided to end the meetings and return to the railway station. Well, in time, we reached.

We shook hands with driver Syed and dashed to Food Track to perform a pet pooja. Since dinner on the train was a given, we ate lightly.

It was one of the most fruitful trips to Bengaluru. All scheduled meetings happened with positive results. What more can one ask for?

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