By Pratishtha Dobhal
The thought of going into Gurgaon from Delhi every day was terrifying. Hour long traffic jams to cover a mere 12kms and you know your life will never be the same again.
Hello new job.
Still… I told the terrified me to keep calm and just do it.
Choice of ride: Uber.
I was not going to drive into work, ’cause 1. I needed my leg to get into super shape before I could do that and 2. Uber just made sense.
Besides the daily pleasantries exchanged: “Hello, Bhaiya aap kahan hain?”/ “Location galat hai aap instructions suniye…”/ to “No. I will not tell you where I need to get dropped”/ “You cancel it, I have already been waiting for more than 20 minutes”, Uber has proven to be my constant source of ‘learning and unlearning’ in an otherwise regular run into work in traffic gutted Delhi.
These hours on the road also metamorphose into that episode of my life where I meet new people on a daily basis. Everyday drives in a fresh face and a different story. And my 17 feet by 6 feet metal ride into work becomes mottled with adjectives and experiences – unique, humbling, regular, frustrating, challenging, life-altering.
I can’t deny the impact this constant brush with real and contained makes to my drone-like state. I know the minute I drop the guard and strike a conversation, walls will disappear, and the driver behind the wheel will have a name and story, unique to his own…
Just a few days ago while calling for an Uber ride I had to wait 30 minutes and guide the driver home.
He arrived 40 minutes later and I was livid.
You don’t want that kind of drama going into a long day of meetings.
On meeting the driver I settled in and got fuming.
It was his first day and I was his first ride.
The GPS nav was the first time he was ever using the technology after his induction and his time with me had kickstarted his training day. Over the course of the drive, he told me it was his second inning because he wanted to be able to support himself and his kids. At 50, he switched from driving a car for a family in South Delhi to Uber. We talked of religion, politics, and his dreams.
The very next day I met another driver who had no idea how to start his trip and I made the first ride swipe on his phone. I went into work feeling like I was not just going to be the sum total of my day’s output at office, I had shared something special with Rajat Singh.
Promise and little victories…
Another day, another story: Sukhwiner from Ludhiana, a strapping 6 feet tall man in white crisps and a bright pink turban was my burst of colour on an otherwise dull day.
He had come to the city a few years ago to be recruited as the President’s bodyguard but didn’t make the cut. He had a four year old daughter and was trying to put her through a private school.
I was in safe hands 🙂
Despite these gems, I can’t say I haven’t had a crude few who have left me stranded, found a way to break the algo of the application during a downtime ingeniously, and left me frustrated. Add to that, the trickle of news on unfair pay that you hear from outside of India. However, over the course of hundred odd Uber rides I have taken I have yet to come across a driver who has complained of Uber not paying on time.
For all the wrong rubs with Uber, the larger picture warrants steady changes to how we travel… There’s absolutely no denying it.
Even though taxi unions may promise to challenge in India and elsewhere (aka Mexico) it’s is getting there, slow and steady…
#UberandI have known each other for a few years now, and every time I call Uber over an Ola, I do it with my conscientiousness intact… as of today.
(#notetoself: as of today)
It’s simple – We are now partners in sustainable development and for now it’s a happy union of skills and services that has made a dent on a socio-economic scale.
Like any application/technology I use and idea that strikes just the right chords, Uber goes beyond the limitation of just wanting to make money. Sure, it came to life through a need, monetized and has become a worldwide phenomenon, but it’s evolved into an experience that now services more than just a simple need.
It’s a charming lesson in averages, economics, and change.
The average salary of a driver used to be Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 till two years ago. Now a driver can easily command anything between Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 working for a family. Finance a car loan, get an Uber, and you know you will not just break even but take home an average of Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 per month.
That’s something no pay commission has been able to do for the private sector in all these years. Blue collar hasn’t just caught up with White Collar jobs, but is moving at a pace faster than you could ever imagine before.
And then there is this deep connect with society that Uber has entangled itself with.
Social stratification be damned.
I have always felt that caste, colour, creed disappear the minute you take public transport to travel in a metropolitan city. Everything clashes and collides and despite the frustration of being crammed you rub shoulders with people from all walks of life. Real life friction gets fractured in the gutt… literally. The person standing/sitting next to you becomes just another human being without tags and titles intact.
My #NHDiaries wouldn’t be the same without Uber.
This #Saturdayeah… while I sit here keying away the sliver of experiences with Uber, I hope someone is moving a tech tonic plate somewhere… Adding little victories and promises 🙂
Have a glorious weekend :*