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Salaam India

P Ravichandran is a Maharashtrian whose grandparents migrated to Bangalore in search of work. He was born and brought up in Mumbai as his father was posted there during that time. He did his SSLC from a school in Matunga and went on to complete his textile engineering degree from the prestigious Victoria Jubileee Technical Institute, Mumbai, no less, specialising in spinning units (assuming I heard correctly).

He worked in various textile units in Maharashtra,Karnataka and even Himachal Pradesh for 11 years until the onslaught of the Chinese Dragon crippled the Indian textile industry. Fed up with waiting for 4-5 months to get a month's salary, he chucked his job and entered the transport business by investing all his life's savings in a 20-seater Swaraj Mazda minibus. He was the manager, booking agent, cleaner, mechanic and driver, all rolled into one, in a bid to earn enough to keep his small family of four fed and clothed.

Fluent in HIndi, Marathi, Kannada and English by now, Ravichander could be forgiven for thinking that the worst was over and he could carve a new and prosperous future for himself and his family in Bangalore.

But fate had slightly different plans for him. A massive road accident involving 9 vehicles, including his Mazda minibus, killed 19 people, injured many others and wrecked both his minibus and his life.

Ravichander was penniless now. All his savings were gone and he had to arrange for his daughter's marriage as well. Undaunted, he sought work as a driver with transport companies. Starting off as a driver on short inter-city routes, he soon grew in his employers' esteem and was assigned the longer and hence more lucrative inter-state routes.

The arrival of luxury buses from Volvo turned his fortunes. As a senior driver with an unblemished record and a technical education to boot, he was an automatic shoe-in for the driver's position for the expensive acquisition at Khurana Transport, Nagpur.

One year hence, he was snapped up by Shama Transport, Bangalore and is now their seniormost driver and is widely respected for his driving and understanding of the Volvo, something which I came to know is quite different from the Tatas, Ashok Leylands and TVS-Irizars of our country.

AS the 8 PM Shama volvo from Ernakulam to Bangalore sped along National Highway 7, I listened with rapt attention as he explained the difference between rear wheel drive and front wheel drive and the unique challenges the Volvo's RWD creates and how they have been tackled.

Sitting in the first row, I had full view of the road ahead and action happening thereon and hence initially percieved him to be a reckless driver, swerving wildly and taking what seemed to be unnecessary risks, but as the time went, I could sense in him a man who knew his job, his bus and its capabilities way better than anything I could imagine.

He was in supreme control as he overtook as assortment of vehicles, sometimes even rushing into oncoming traffic to get out of a logjam, all the while chatting away about hoe Indians' rash and irresponsible driving causes problems for him and how he handles them.

Today, he is a content man. His daughter was married off last year, his son is in the first year of PUC. He has saved enough to fund his future education and more than a decade of driving buses later, he has enough left in the bank to guarantee a confortable future after he retires.
Undaunted by adversity, willing to take life's challenges head on, refusing to lie low, a champion in the true sense of the word, P Ravichander, Maharashtrian, Bangalorean, Indian, it was a privilege seeing you !

Nice to read stories like this. If more people in India connected with each other like this, we could iron out so many issues. Most of them we are just classifying each other and getting it over with - busy trying to reach the four walls of our homes.

Cheers!

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