Truck Trail

Incredible South

On the Salem-Tirupati-Vijayawada route, drivers dream of cricket, a chance in a movie and even a career in chartered accountancy while driving through lonely roads, speeding to families

Photographs by RA Chandroo

M Nallaswamy looks at his mother fondly as she brings the TVS 50 moped to life. At 67, Poongudi uses it to carry milk to be delivered to households each morning. She does this since her son is out 20 days a month driving a truck.

In a moment of candour, Nallaswamy, who owns four trucks, all bought on loans, says the job gets difficult as one gets older. “I have no ailments but I can feel the age set in,” says the 47-year-old. The family’s home perches on 15 acres in Athipalayam in Tamil Nadu’s Namakkal district, where we are seated. Cows and goats are placed in a separate enclosure. “It was fun to move around earlier but being out for 20 days now is difficult.”

The trucking business brings him Rs.30,000 after all expenses are met (fuel, toll and payments to drivers being the primary costs), and that is barely enough for bread and butter. Agricultural produce, which includes peanuts and corn, and the milk, is another Rs.10,000, albeit with some difficulty. “In that sense, driving the truck is necessary. Maybe, I should have learnt something else; it’s a little late now,” he says.

There is no sense of regret in the voice, but more a pride of having seen a lot of India, and the ability to speak Hindi. “Mera Hindi bahut accha hai. Koi problem nahin,” says the portly man. The same pride also shows on his face when it comes to cooking tomato rice, a dish he seems to have mastered during his days-long trips. “I cook it even better than my wife,” he says, as the better half looks on smilingly.

Omalur to Krishnagiri

“Please don’t click pictures of me smoking. My father will kill me,” says L Karthik, very gently. It is nearing sunset in Omalur, a small town in Salem district. He left Coimbatore at 10 am with a two-hour stopover in Sankagiri. The destination is Ahmedabad and Karthik is smiling. He loves going to Gujarat and this is his sixth trip.

Just how difficult is it to be a truck driver, we ask him. “If you are fine with not having a bath for two days, it’s easy,” he says with a grin. Getting a little serious, he says the biggest joy for him comes from the steady hum of the engine. “I dropped out of school after tenth standard. There was not a lot of money at home, but the truth is, I was also never interested in academics,” he says in Tamil. A native of Theni, situated close to Madurai, he started off as a cleaner and learnt driving during these four years. At 22, Karthik was ready to do his first trip, which remains fresh in his memory — he carried grapes from Theni to Madras. Today, the truck is carrying iron scrap and plastic pipes on the way back from Gujarat.

There is a perception that drivers are rash and care two hoots about road safety. Karthik says that has changed with owners now being very fussy about fuel efficiency. “That means we can never go beyond 50 km/hour, compared to 90 km/hour earlier. My owner is a miser and he will get very upset if we break that limit,” he says jokingly. Within arm’s length are two dozen bundles of beedis, which, he claims, will last for 15 days. The luxury permitted is a cigarette after lunch.

To Karthik, there is nothing to complain about on either the quality of roads, or trucks, or even how much he gets paid. “The real issue is travelling through Rajasthan or Maharashtra in peak summer without even a fan,” he says. Karthik is accompanied by Saravana Kumar, a fellow driver, and they will take turns at the wheel, ensuring both get enough sleep.  

The pay depends on the freight cost, of which 16% comes to the drivers. That is further split equally among co-drivers, which also explains why many drivers choose to do it alone. For Karthik, most of what he earns goes towards repaying his Rs.600,000 loan that was borrowed to build a home in Theni. “Once that is done, I will start looking for a girl to marry,” he says, humorously. Karthik has not been to a movie theatre for five years and the only obsession is to get the loan off his back. When he visits Coimbatore, perhaps once a month, he enjoys a bottle of beer with his close group of friends. Drawing some currency out of a little pouch, he quickly stops to pay the toll at Thoppur toll plaza in Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri district. “My parents fear for my safety and call me twice a day,” says Karthik. To them, he is still that little young boy seeking to make a fortune.

Yeshwanthpur hub

It’s a damp morning in Yeshwanthpur (a suburb in Bengaluru) as hordes of trucks make their way in and out. The place smells of fruits and vegetables, which spill over onto the road because of poor storage facilities. In his mid-60s, John says nothing has changed here in the last three decades, with drivers still coping with neglect.

Money has been hard to come by and the Rs.10,000 he earns each month only suffices for his sustenance. The man’s vision has dimmed with age, even as his humour remains sharp. Ask him how much he has as savings and the answer is a zero. “I call it a zero balance account,” he says with a laugh. John suffers from pain in his joints and has never been to a doctor. “I cannot afford to and the medical shop in my neighbourhood keeps giving me a few tablets. I think it is working,” he says with a vein of doubt.

Drivers here are afflicted with some health problem or the other, and get inadequate medical attention, if not complete indifference. Suresh, a man in his mid-30s, hails from Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh and had serious anger-management issues. A year ago, he was advised to meet a doctor, who diagnosed him with hypertension. That’s not the only problem. Suresh points to his left foot where a blister has remained for three months. “Sugar ka problem hai,” he says, taking a guess. When you ask repeatedly why he refuses to meet a doctor, he shrugs his shoulders, before walking away. 

However, everyone suffers equally in bride hunting. Some like Srinivasan have been street-smart about this. Quietly, he told his gullible father-in-law-to-be that he owned a truck, which made his driver occupation a lot more respectable. His wife discovered the truth after the marriage and was horrified. “After two children, she has still not forgiven me,” Srinivasan says with uncontrollable laughter.

Hoskote to Kolar

Saheb, paisa hi sab kuch hai,” says a cynical Mukesh Yadav. At 22, he wears a pubescent moustache, but a good part of his youth seems to have been taken away. The young man had to drop out of school in Class IX to support his family.

Hoskote is a 30 km drive from Bengaluru and we are on NH75, which connects Bantwal in Karnataka to Vellore in Tamil Nadu. Our next stop is Kolar and Mukesh welcomes us aboard with the title song from Dil Tera Aashiq, a Salman Khan-starrer. Guaranteed to burst one’s eardrums, we suffer the shrillness for a good 20 minutes, after which he changes tracks to play Bhojpuri hits.

With the music running, Mukesh is enthused and says he is now ready to converse. His regular route is Hoskote to Kolkata, a journey that takes a good five days, cutting through Tirupati, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Brahmapur, Bhubaneswar and Kharagpur, before reaching the ‘city of joy’. Till a week ago, he used to drive alone; now Raj, who is barely 20, keeps him company to do odd jobs including cooking. Tucked away in a top corner are large packets of rice, daal, tomatoes and other provisions. The trick is to cook early in the morning and cook anything that lasts the day. There is a stove, parked right next to the engine and on the menu today is daal chawal, with dahi to be picked up en route.

Home for Mukesh is Buxar district in Bihar, which he visits no more than twice a year. His maama (mother’s brother) introduced him to the trucking business when the boy was just 14. The first assignment was as a cleaner for about four years before getting behind the wheel. Mukesh’s two brothers are drivers as well, while one sister is studying, with the other married. A few years ago, he qualified for the NCC, but fate intervened. “I was asked for a bribe of Rs.600,000 by a local agent. I had only Rs.200,000 and never made it,” he says sadly. 

For someone as young as he is, Mukesh measures himself against school friends who work in large offices, holding better jobs. “Yeh sab taqdeer ka khel hain,” he says, thoughtfully. Left to him, he would study more, preferably wrap up basic schooling. 

In a good month, he makes Rs.12,000, of which at least 80% is sent home. Being so far away and on his own, he speaks openly of loneliness. “Padhne ka umar hai saheb,” says Mukesh wistfully, before mentioning that he was a good student in school. Being uprooted and pulled into work still hurts him. Two years ago, there was a function in his district, where the chief guest was Sona Singh, a well-known singer. She spotted Mukesh and quickly came to speak to him. They were classmates in school and the first thing she asked was why he had dropped out. “Her father was in the army and she lived well. Life had been more difficult for us,” he says. But Sona has asked him to stay in touch, with a promise to the film-crazy Mukesh that she would help him get a role.

Mukesh has not stopped smiling since then and, at every opportunity, rushes to the mirror to take a look at himself. This drive to Kolar has been no exception and the hands constantly run through his soft hair. He now downloads every new film on his smartphone, a Vivo handset that costs Rs.12,000. “Maalik ne loan diya,” he says enthusiastically. Inexpensive data is being used to the hilt as he shows you one Sona Singh number after the other. 

The one habit he is finding hard to kick is chewing tobacco, a malaise in this community. Fellow drivers had started him on it, telling him that it helps fight sleep. His teeth are already stained and when asked how it will affect his chances in the Bhojpuri film industry, he says it will make no difference at all. 

Mukesh presents an odd combination of naivety and cleverness, hard won at too early an age. The job is perilous and he has a terrified look when speaking of driving through Orissa. “The place is very violent and many drivers have been killed just for money,” he says. The unwritten rule among his friends is to not stop, even for a moment, in some of the stretches near Cuttack, even if it is to answer nature’s call. 

Kolar to Mulbagal

On NH75, Suresh is hitting speeds as high as 70 km/hour. The truck owner, Imran, remains unconcerned. The truck is full of vegetables and has to reach Vijayawada early the following morning. It’s a beautiful evening in Kolar, a place known for its gold fields, with a light drizzle completing the picture.

The truck is half full and Imran says business has slackened a little over the last six months. Suresh, at the wheel, is not the most talkative guy and getting to the destination in time is all that he has on his mind. The moment we speak about the family, he warms up. The biggest regret has been to pull his two girls out of an English medium school to one where Kannada is the first language. “The fee was Rs.30,000 per year and I am paying Rs.10,000 in the Kannada school. It is a bad decision but I have no option,” he says, frustration palpable. 

As the truck stops for refuelling, Suresh is more relaxed, saying the policemen will stay away today. “If you are carrying vegetables, they will not touch you,” he says. There’s no money to be made on low-value goods such as veggies, but when you are carrying something like granite or iron, it’s different. “You are dead if you’re carrying granite,” he adds. Suresh is 33 and confesses that he loves driving more than his own wife: “I get very upset when she calls me while I am driving. I make it a point to call home at 8.30 pm sharp.”

The risk in driving, especially during night, is something he is aware of. “Dar dar ke gaadi koi chala nahin sakta,” he says in broken Hindi. Watching news on YouTube is a pet occupation, which he indulges in during his breaks. “It’s good to know what is going on and video is a great boon. I watch Kannada films as well,” says the man cheerfully. Once he reaches Vijayawada, he remains unsure when he will return. Everything depends on how quickly the business is done. “I will be lucky to get back in two days,” he says, as the phone buzzes to remind him that it’s 8.30. It is family time for Suresh.  

Tirupati hub

This is the temple town but there is no trace of reverence in the conversations at the hub. A group of about eight truck drivers are back from their trip and have the day off. The jokes are risqué and there is no stopping the endless flow of laughter. It’s like a school reunion, with everyone at their rambunctious best.

The kingpin is Anand Kumar, who is quick with the repartee and effortlessly shifts between Tamil and Telugu. He has learnt how to read English and attempts to converse in it at times. “As long as you understand it, it must be right,” he says happily. At school, he was nicknamed Nagesh, a famous comedian from Tamil Nadu and folks now call him Santhanam, a present day performer. 

Dressed in a colourful lungi, the 40-year-old has been a driver for fifteen years. “There is a negative perception about drivers, be it around their drinking habits or womanising. It is not fair to generalise,” he says. With breath analysers, for instance, a driver found to be drunk at the wheel can kiss his profession goodbye. “No company in this business will employ him again,” he says.

On the tricky issue of sleeping with sex workers, Anand admits that it is still prevalent, though there is a rise in awareness about its consequences. Pointing to Gopi, one of his fellow drivers, he says, “As long as you have idiots like him, this nuisance will persist,” to which the rest of the group laughs boisterously. Coyly, Gopi admits he “sinned” two days ago, but it was because he was away from home for over a month. On the specific issue of using protection, he replies in the affirmative, though his friends tease him that he is lying. 

Anand, a father to three girls, was married at 20 and says this job is not for the faint-hearted. “One has to deal with corrupt policemen and erratic work hours. In spite of all that, it’s fun because we get to travel,” he says. Over the last three to four years, he has decided to cool off and does road trips that are not more than 250-300 km. “It allows me to spend more time at home. Perhaps, I don’t make a lot of money, but spending time with family is also important,” he says.

The crowd, now warmed up, demands that Anand mimics MR Radha, a top actor from a time gone by. He narrates dialogues from one of his iconic films, which would have pleased the deceased actor. It is a show that lasts for a few minutes, at the end of which the drivers get back to their dirty jokes.

Tirupati to Nellore

As the monsoon sweeps western and northern India, there is not a sprinkle in Tirupati. The temperature is in the late 30s and Munni Krishna is all set for the drive to Nellore. With luck on our side, it should take about four hours. Our route will be a combination of state and national highways, meaning we will get to see the interiors of small towns.

“This will be a nice route Sir, with many mountains,” he says, as we get started. Munni touches a picture of the Almighty in prayer, and swerves through Tirupati — where every second shop is named Venkatesh or Venkateswara or Balaji. A native of Vadamalapeta in Chittoor district, the man returns home once a week, where he works on agricultural land as a daily labourer. “The landlord grows sugarcane, rice and mangoes. It helps in making some more money,” he says. Driving the truck allows him to make Rs.12,000-15,000 per month and working on the field gives another Rs.10,000. 

Munni takes two breaks for chai and, on each occasion, pops in a cream biscuit. Drivers usually skip meals and run on these small snack breaks. His two girls are bright students and he proudly shares how they speak English far better than he does. “I don’t understand what they are saying and just nod my head,” he says. 

The hitch for a driver is when he hits his 40s. Suddenly, the monotony sets in and the joy of driving takes a backseat. “I should have planned to buy a truck many years ago. Now, it is quite late since I don’t know how long I can do this,” says the 40-year-old, whose skin appears weather-beaten and eyes fail to conceal a fatigue gathered over time.

Munni loves politics, not for what it is, but rather, the personality of a few of the leaders. “When NTR died, I really cried. I still watch his movies on television,” he confesses. Sadly, his wife likes Jagapati Babu, one of the prevailing stars. If his movie is released, he has to accompany her. “I still don’t know if she likes me or him more,” says Munni in Telugu.

A drizzle turns into a much-needed shower and the petrichor is overwhelming. We are in Nellore district, one of the numerous rice belts of Andhra Pradesh, and we can see cows grazing in the distance under a shimmering rainbow. This is a state road and Munni goes easy on the pedal till we hit the national highway. Munni has been on the road for the last week and will take a break in Nellore. As we get off, he tells us the plan is to get a tetrapak of McDowell’s brandy, before calling it a day. We wish him luck as the next stage of the journey beckons.

Singarayakonda hub

The deformed bent arm draws a round of claps and cheers from the crowd. “Muthiah Muralitharan,” exclaims one hairy lad in his early 20s and his friends roar in approval. The man in the centre of it enjoys the attention and looks around before asking if you would like to see him bowl the outswinger. When you say yes, he moves his fingers around the imaginary cricket ball in his large hand and says, “Kapil was the best swing bowler ever.”

It is a hot day in Singarayakonda and the drivers are waiting for their next trip. Murali Krishna is a hero of sorts here and he does things most others can’t. He speaks English, has a professional degree and does not bother to hide his disappointment with life, which has been a roller coaster. A long drive from Orissa to this little town in Andhra Pradesh’s Prakasam district has left him tired. He grew up obsessed with cricket and even played for his district. Pressure at home had him changing track and he soon completed his graduation in electronics from Guntur’s Acharya Nagarjuna University. That was in 2004 and, the same year, he enrolled for a Master’s degree.

Caste is a looming presence in this part of the world and the 36-year-old Murali says he got into a scuffle with folks from another caste and landed in jail for about six months. This was just a year into his MSc and it left him cynical and disillusioned. He is reluctant to share more and instead skips a few years, talking about his next stop at Secunderabad in Telangana, where he joined Vision Labs. He spent a good three years there, making Rs.9,000 each month before a family dispute over land drew him back home to Singarayakonda. That was the last time he ever held a professional job and, since 2009, he has been a truck driver. “I was victimised because of my caste and suffered. Life has taken me through many journeys,” he says in simple English. 

Like most from his ilk, he is frustrated with his meagre earning. Murali’s wife is in Hyderabad, where she works as an accountant. Kids are not on the horizon and what takes up his time is the incessant travel. “I have travelled abroad 28 times since I became a driver. All the trips have been to Bangladesh to deliver onions,” he says with a laugh. Murali excuses himself as a group of drivers want him to show how to bowl a googly.

Singarayakonda to Ongole

“Narasimha” is the name that bellows from the loudspeaker. Immediately, a man drops his beedi and rushes to the counter. The place is swarming with houseflies and Narasimha is oblivious to them as they settle on his ear, shirt and every hold available. He is asked if he wants to drive a truck filled with paper products to Chennai and he says no. He lives in Vijayawada, 180 km away hours away, and opts to wait for a trip terminating there. The system here is simple. A driver walking in writes his name in the register at the counter and waits for his turn. Nobody forces him to accept a consignment or a destination.

At a time when jobs are in short supply, Singarayakonda presents a peculiar paradox. In 2004, there were 2,000 trucks parked in the large hub and today, that number is barely 600. Being a truck driver is not such a cool job and the younger generation fancies employment in a plush air-conditioned office. And for those who are not that ambitious, they have happily settled into driving auto rickshaws, which importantly is a predictable day job.

That kind of a scenario could mean curtains for the business and truck owners now are genuinely worried. Drivers are being lured with interest-free loans between Rs.30,000 and Rs.1 lakh. Nothing is on paper and the money has to be returned on a mutually agreed upon date, which is usually a year away. To ensure the system is devoid of bias, all drivers are eligible.

Bhaskar Reddy and K Babu wear happy smiles when asked if they have received any money. Both have been recipients of Rs.20,000 each, money that has gone into meeting expenses at home. “I don’t know how it has been spent. My wife takes care of it,” says Babu.

The question uppermost in our minds is — does it make sense to be a driver or an owner? Pinjaliah bends to touch the picture of Jesus Christ before answering the question. He owns two six-wheeler trucks and the destination today is Chennai. The 40-year-old will first go home to Chilakaluripet, 100 km away, from where he will pick up 16 buffaloes to be dropped at Chennai. “A veterinary doctor and three helpers will also join,” he says as his Ashok Leyland Boss comes to life. It is 3 pm and he expects to reach Chennai in the wee hours.

Pinjaliah loves driving and has been at it for 17 years. “You will want to own a truck if driving is a passion,” he says. The pitfall is being responsible for everything including cranky drivers. “Bahut tension hai unke saath,” he says. He coughed up Rs.10,000 to compensate an owner when a driver played truant. A father of two girls, Pinjaliah wants to see them doing something else for a living. “Driving is fun but we have to make a lot of sacrifices when it comes to our family,” he says grimly.

His routine is to travel alone and do short distances, most often to Chennai. No food is carried in this 2014 truck, which looks brand new. Right after settling the loan for the first truck that he bought in 2010 and has now been handed over to his drivers, Pinjaliah went back to the bank for Rs.600,000. This is the new beast that the drivers dare not touch, for it is Pinjaliah’s favourite.

The plan for tonight is to stop at the Tamil Nadu border, where a pepper chicken is a star attraction. For now, he turns on the music, which churns out the Botany Patamundi song from Shiva, a big hit from the 1980s. “Nagarjuna is my favourite actor,” he says enthusiastically. Given that films are such an integral part of people’s lives in this part of the country, that kind of passion is only to be expected.

Ongole to Vijayawada

Alisa’s eyes turn moist when he speaks of his elder son. Azharuddin is 14 and, from the time he was born, his health has been a concern. The father struggles to articulate his child’s troubles and it appears to be a case of learning disability. “He will understand what you say but finds it difficult to respond,” says Alisa in Hindi, which is uniquely Dakhini. While there is a touch of Hyderabad in the language, Telugu often finds its way into the conversation. 

We continue our journey on NH5, easily one of the best roads to drive on. Today, the 12-wheeler is filled with moong daal, to be taken to Cuttack for processing. Alisa’s journey started from Chennai and we came aboard at Ongole. Here is a man of many interests, who secretly dreams of meeting Hema Malini someday. “I will travel to Mumbai for that. You should take me to her house,” he says, as if that’s the easiest thing to do. 

Bakri Id is just a couple of days away and there is sadness about not being at home. It is mid-afternoon at Ongole and Alisa will drive almost non-stop for the next 48 hours. The music will be turned on if he thinks sleep is setting in. “I love music but only to keep me awake. It can be distracting otherwise,” the 37-year-old says. At that very moment, a fellow driver calls to check where he is. “Cuttack ke raaste mein,” he yells four times, till the message goes through. “This is an old phone. I will save money to get a new one,” he smiles.

The man will be on the road for the whole month, followed by a week at home in Chilakaluripet. The affection for the family is obvious and more so at the mention of his daughter, Arifa Begum. All of five, the girl clings to her father every minute he’s home. After a trip as long as this, he says he will bring back a “special cake” from Cuttack for Arifa and some storybooks for his two boys. After years of treatment which cost around Rs.500,000, Azharuddin is much better and sits in the same class as his younger brother, who came two years later. Alisa, huge fan of the former Indian cricket captain, gave that name to his son and the trucker treasures an autograph that he managed to get in Hyderabad over two decades ago. The younger one was born in the middle of the fasting season and has been named Ramzanuddin. “Chhotu takes care of Azhar very well,” says the father with joy. 

Alisa has left behind Rs.5,000 for the festive season. All of it will go into buying clothes for the family, which his wife, Meherbaan, will handle. “The boys will buy a jeans pant. I don’t know what Arifa wants,” he says. The wife has already set her eyes on a saree and Alisa knows how much that matters to her. Married to his maamu’s daughter, the man makes it a point to pick up sarees at two locations — Kolhapur and Kolkata — when he is there. “They sell good cotton sarees. Bahut pasand hai mere wife ko woh embroidery waala design,” says Alisa, confident that he knows her mind. 

In this nomadic existence, being at home for any occasion is a rarity and the biryani that his wife cooks really well is often missed. As much as he remembers when each of his dear ones was born, Alisa faced the music last year, when he forgot his wedding anniversary. “In the midst of the driving tension, it slipped my mind. My wife was very upset but luckily, I was travelling through Kolhapur and quickly bought a saree,” laughs Alisa. The sad part is no one ever wishes him on his birthday: “Kab paidaa hua, koi idea nahin hai uska.

The priority now is to build a house in the village. That will depend on the sale of his grandmother’s home, which is expected to fetch him Rs.500,000 as his share. Investing in the chit fund scheme has led to savings of around Rs.100,000. “Hopefully, that will be enough,” he whispers. In the best of months, he makes about Rs.20,000 and gives that to his wife. “Nothing was ever planned and we are quite happy with this life,” he says.

When he is not playing music, he sings, and today, he churns out one song each in Telugu and Hindi. Blushing at the sight of him being recorded, he finally loosens up. Alisa has been at the wheel for two decades after the mandatory cleaner job for seven years. While there have been several ups and downs, there is no doubt in his mind on the best decision ever. Another decision he is glad he made is having his third child. “After two boys, I wanted to get the operation (vasectomy) done but my relative said Ladki se ghar banta hain,” he joyfully says. The break in September will be for over a week and Alisa wants to get his friends together for the local cricket tournament. To be played with the “leather ball”, there will be some practice before the matches start. Alisa will surely play a few matches before it is time to hit the road again.

Vijayawada hub

The two 26-year-olds sit quietly in the corner. In the midst of this trucking hub, they look a little out of place. Logesh and Praveen are much younger compared to the folks here; all of them are greying at the temple.

Both are graduates and trucking to them is not a profession chosen by default. In fact, the two young men have different and yet interesting reasons to be there. Logesh acquired a BSc in Computer Science from Salem. Growing up in a city filled with trucks (his father is a farmer), he fell in love with the engine first, while his land waited. Not clear how to pursue this childhood desire, Logesh landed a job at Cognizant, where he worked in the maintenance department. “If there was an issue with an app, we had to solve it,” he explains. Making in excess of Rs.25,000 each month seemed like a happy existence, though his heart was elsewhere.

The dream was to own a fleet of trucks and Logesh decided he would first learn how to drive one. “I wanted to start from the bottom and learn the ropes,” says the bearded man, who is a big fan of cricketer, K L Rahul. The decision to quit Cognizant in 2016 after a three-year-stint set the cat amongst the pigeons. His father did not speak to him for a year, while his mother said, “no woman will ever marry you.” It’s been a year now and Logesh has been working as a driver with Sakthivel Transport, earning Rs.15,000 each month. Importantly, he is delighted and speaks of owning at least five trucks in the next two to three years. “I have to convince the banks about my seriousness,” he says, sounding hopeful. 

Things have cooled off at home, with the family realising that their boy is pursuing his passion. His father calls him at least once each day to check if all is well. Once a voracious reader of Tamil fiction, Logesh now spends all his free time learning the business — both from his owner and fellow drivers. Travel takes him across South India, Orissa and Chattisgarh, and he spends about four days a month at home. “My father is my role model and that will never change. He is upset that I still have not thought of getting married,” he says, but cheerily.

His buddy, Praveen, graduated in Commerce from a college in Erode and was always smitten by long drives. It has been three years as a driver and the real plan is to do his chartered accountancy. “I still have the loan for my college education to repay, which should be done this year,” he says calmly. Confessing a love for accountancy, he believes nothing can stop him from pursuing his dream. The outgo as fees will be at least Rs.50,000 each year and the plan is to take time off next year. “It requires a lot of hard work and once I manage to get the money, everything should hopefully fall into place,” says Praveen. There is happiness in driving a truck but he craves for the social currency that comes with working in a company.