Truck Trail

The quiet of East

The Trucking Industry Is Slowing Down On The Howrah-Dhanbad-Bodh Gaya Route And The Drivers Are Hoping For Deliverance, Even Through Divine Intervention

Photographs by Vishal Koul

Shivshankar Rai is unabashedly emotional when talking about his mother. “Maa se upar toh kuch hota hi nahi hai,” he says. Nothing is more important than one’s mother. The trucker, from Vaishali in Bihar, steers his truck from a Howrah hub towards Siliguri; it will be a drive from a crowded metropolitan city in the South of West Bengal to the bustling, beautiful tourist town in the North.  

Despite Rai’s declarations, it is his two brothers in Bihar who stayed back with their mother. They chose to continue farming while he ventured out of their village in 1994 and arrived in Kolkata to make a living. His home, with his wife and two children, is not far from the dhaba on NH6, from where he has started a million journeys over the past 25 years.  

He visits Vaishali once a year, around the festival of Chhath. It is in worship of the sun, largely an agrarian ritual. Rai likes to make an entrance, carrying gifts for the children, and sarees for his mother and bhabhis. Since he is an owner-driver, Rai drives his truck to the village. “Apni hi gaadi le jaake khada kartein hein gaon mein,” he says with pride.  

His mother, who is past 70, looks forward to his arrival. “She must love me the most among the three brothers,” he says, with a smile. “Last year, I arranged for her motiyabind (cataract) surgery.... Over the phone, she told me she can’t thank me enough for this.”  

But how is Rai’s eyesight, a driver’s most prized asset? “My eyesight is perfect. I can still drive for many years,” he says. What he is not sure of is the affection of his children. Will they love him as much as he does his mother? “I am not sure if my son would pay for my surgery when I’m old,” he says, reflectively.