Mission Delhi – Balvindra, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It does resemble something familiar, something that is occasionally featured as a curiosity piece in travel magazines. Oh yes, it looks like one of those so-called pod hotels of Tokyo–a bed, with some space that is large enough only to fit in this bed.
But this is Gurgaon, in the Greater Delhi Region. And this the inside of a roadway truck’s cabin. The truck is parked by the roadside in one of the sectors.
“All trucks look like this from inside,” says driver Balvindra. “There is the driver’s seat and the rest is the palang (bed) where one can lie down and rest.”
Indeed, Balvindra is lazily slouched on the bed at this moment. He drove his Ashoka Leyland truck all night long from Dehradun, Uttarakhand, carrying a stock of washing machines. “The distributor will unload the maal in a day or two, but I’m not sure.” The warehouse is nearby, he informs.
Until then Balvindra will lounge in this cabin. Picking up his mobile phone, he says, “I don’t get bored… just now I was listening to Geeta Gyan on YouTube.” He confesses he mostly listens to “religious preaching… it fills my mind with peace.” Indeed, Balvindra can recite the entire Hanuman Chalisa by heart. And then he goes on to do just that.
One imagines a truck driver to be accompanied in his long journeys by an apprentice, but Balvindra reveals that “these days very few have helpers… there’s no money in this trade… my salary is not much.” The figure he quotes seems too meager to support his wife and two children in the village in Panipat, Haryana. “Some additional income does come our way from agriculture… my elder brother helps farm our family fields.”
In his 40s, Balvindra doesn’t think he can change his career at this stage in life. How about being a cab driver? The man shakes his head, muttering that he sees himself in “truck drivery” in the years ahead. He hopes his school-going children will become graduates, “for a degree can help in life.”
The truck driver now stretches out his right leg along the bed, turns on his phone and starts listening to Mata ki Aarti.
[This is the 494th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A truck driver’s world