Why I write?
What’s the role of the writer?
I always ask this question.
First, they turn the spotlight on an issue.
Not that the issue was unknown, but ignored or neglected.
Like, Before Isaac Newton discovered gravity by watching the apple falling onto the ground, gravity did exist. It was not gravity waiting for Newton in 1665 (360 years ago) to proclaim the time immemorial truth or fact. It existed in the age of Adam and Eve. And in the age of neanderthal also. No one observed how Newton saw it and wrote the famous gravity theory.
Similarly, the challenges a truck driver faces are nothing new. It was known when today’s motor maliks were drivers themselves. It was a different society. Less corruption. More humanity. Of course, no 4-lanes or 6-lane state or national highways. No toll plazas. No RTOs. Not what everyone calls the 18 highway vultures. Drivers, when hired by motor malik-drivers, there was a bonhomie. Sort of a family. They were together. Today, such a system does not exist. Whatever we said earlier did not exist. They are there plenty. Beautiful highways. Toll Plazas. Corrupt RTOs and other highway bureaucrats. Goons.
So life became difficult for truck drivers. While motor maliks, brokers, agents, or dalals got themselves organized, drivers did not. If they tried, other stakeholders saw that they were made to vanish. Collectivism for themselves was ok. But not for drivers. In the bargain, drivers become voiceless.
I did the same. I began to see. I began to feel. And I began to write. Simple, right?
What I see impacts me.
So, there comes the feeling. Empathy. Sympathy.
I had a visual story of what I had seen.
The difficult part is translating those visual clips into good prose.
Let me be honest with you.
I am not a wordsmith.
Most conventional publishers would not touch me with a barge pole.
That’s fine with me.
That’s their dharma.
Filtering out the filth is their credo.
I try to write reader-friendly prose.
Still, the readers of my books can be counted at my fingertips.
I am not blaming them for trying.
They are unable to read because there are many distractions.
Internet or the smartphone is the biggest enemy.
Still, out of the blue, I fly into Heaven.
Someone tells me that they had read not the full book but a chapter or so
and tells me that I am a good storyteller.
Now you know why I feel I am in Heaven.
For example, five-six years ago, Nikhil Jain, supply chain head at Cadbury’s — called Mondiale or something — told me his school-going son read a chapter in my book 10,000KM on Indian highways and told him he felt as if he was there experiencing what I had written.
I don’t have to ask for anything else.
Such compliments from unknown quarters convince me that I am not wasting time writing.
Do drivers read my book? Because it is about them.
No, not at all.
Because it is in English.
And I am not a native Hindi speaker or writer. So I can’t write in Hindi.
Even the English-speaking/knowing fleet owners don’t read my books
unless they are told that they have been written about!
We are all on an ego trip.
No exceptions. Including me.
A leading truck maker told me that since the book addresses trucking, it should be in Hindi because a majority of fleet owners
are Hindi mother tonguers.
I did the Hindi translation in 2013, backed by them.
Not one reader called up till today.
Maybe they read but are shy of conveying their opinion.
I am very optimistic! Right?
Except for being aware that I write about their living and working conditions, drivers have no clue as to what I have been writing all these
100,000 long-haul truck drivers
30,000 Km as kalasi
Since 2010…. 12 long years.
Barring Kashmir and Mizoram, seen entire India.
Free Bharat darshan!
I look back and pinch myself.
Did I do that?
Began the trucking tryst at the ripe age of 54.
My mother-in-law used to ask her daughter:
Has any mad dog bitten your husband?
My wife was apprehensive, given my type 2 diabetic condition.
Food at odd places.
Sleeping in trucks.
Moving in the company of truck drivers
On unguarded highways.
Accidents and thefts cannot be ruled out.
Such things do not bestow “bragging rights” on any lady. Right?
But I wanted to do it.
All because of a rejection.
For seven years, I worked in Muscat, Dubai, and Bahrain for some publishing companies.
Once I suggested that I be allowed to travel from the Iran-Oman border in the north to Salalah port, the southern tip of Oman. Say, 1500 km max.
They laughed and vetoed such a road trip.
That rejection kept the desire to travel on highways burning.
How does it matter if it is not in the Persian Gulf?
Why not in India?
On my return to India end of 2009, I began planning.
Like Paul Coelho said, if you dream, whatever you dream may fructify with elements trying to help you realize that dream.
Even A P J Kalam said the same thing.
My maiden truck trip from Chennai to Gurgaon — 2,600km in a car carrier happened in October 2010.
After that, I never looked back.
You may wonder why I am not talking about the book.
What’s there to talk about here?
Through the book, I am talking to you — sharing my personal experiences.
Why rob you of the thrill of holding a book in your hand and reading a few paras, if not the entire chapter or the full book?
Not a cut-and-paste job. Pure experiential journalism.
You can open the book anywhere.
Read from anywhere.
It’s all about the life of truck drivers.
And how the stakeholders can positively change that landscape.
I don’t have to tell the importance of truck drivers to this august audience.
Remember Covid19. Woh kafi hai.
Those of who may read this book, may ask:
Yeh, naya kya bola hai?
Hum sab jaanta hai.
Precisely, the point.
The stakeholders are 100% aware.
The question is:
What have you done to change that ugly landscape?
If you do that, half of my effort will be meaningful.
Well, I always wonder: is that the reason why no stakeholder would like to read my book?
Before I conclude, I must say this.
The only man who read all my books — published and unpublished works — is my decade-old friend and my design and production coordinator Kausar Syed Hussein.
Not once, multiple times did he — like me — read these books to carry out corrections.
Page by page.
Not once, multiple times!
Does he not deserve a round of applause?
As far as this book is concerned, I am thankful for three high-profile logistics and supply chain honchos who spared time to read DRIVERNAMA in full.
Yes, all these chapters. In fact, I have to drop a few in the final cut for some technical reasons.
Yes, they read all chapters.
How do I know?
Read the Foreword and introductions by these gentlemen.
They could not have written what they wrote if they have not read the book in its entirety.
In typical south Indian style, my sastanga namaskaram.
Sheer coincidence that these jambavans are from the south.
I did not plan it. It so happened.
Sri N Sivasailam IAS, the first special secretary logistics in the ministry of commerce and industry, govt of India, when the govt created such a dedicated post in govt.
Next, Sri G Raghuram, Dean, Director of IIM Ahemdabad, Bangalore. He is synonymous with transportation vertical from the academic world.
Last but not least is Sri Raghunathan Ramakrishnan, former Supply Chain chief of Unilever and ITC, before joining the start-up bandwagon in the logistics and supply chain terrain.
Thank you, sirs!
I will be ungrateful if I don’t thank Swapnil Shah, promoter and chief deity of Freight Tigers, who helped me roll out this fourth book after nine years. Out of the dozen I approached for this book, he was THE ONLY ONE who responded immediately and positively. Thank you, Swapnil! Words fail me.
Haan, this book is dedicated to my younger, more mature, seasoned friend and colleague, Centhamil Selvan Dasaraj. Don’t get carried away by “Centhamil,” which means pure literary Tamil in his name. He can speak Tamil. Cant write and read! Yes, another Hyderabad-raised Madrasi! Another south Indian connection.
Why do I dedicate this book to him?
Read the Acknowledgement section at the end of this book. You have answers to this question.
Are there any more books in me?
Have I stopped watching?
Have I stopped feeling for the underprivileged?
Can I stop writing?
There is a saying: You cannot step into the same river twice.
Are the roads we travel the same over the years?
Are the people we meet the same over the years?
Are the experiences the same over the years?
You will not disagree when I say they are not the same.
So, you know my answer to the question of another book.
Maybe more. I have no idea.
All it needs is another Vipul Nanda, another Swapnil Joshi.
Once again, I wish to thank all my well-wishers — readers or not! — and Freight Tiger and
others for helping me to pass on what I saw, what I felt, and what I wrote.