In recent times, I gave up the privilege of having a driver. Having a driver, or a multitude of drivers does not have the same associations of wealth in India, as it may have in the more ‘developed’ Western world.
Of course, having and army of drivers does connote wealth, especially if you give them uniforms to wear and fancy cars to drive.
When I was negotiating my terms with my last organization, I gently told Global HR that I would need a driver. I was given the stuffy response that, in their organization, only the Global Managing Board (GMB) was given the privilege of having drivers. Instead of raving, ranting, beating my chest like a modern day corporate Tarzan (read Alpha-Male), I merely shrugged my shoulders, and mentioned that in India, parking space is difficult to find, and while I had no objections to driving my own car, the GMB should not complain if I were to arrive at customer meetings two hours late only because I was looking for a spot to park, and then having to walk an hour in the sun from the parking lot to the customer’s office.
While they believed that they ran the world from their little corner of the world, they suddenly realized that different parts of the world have different ways of functioning, and signed off on the driver. Of course, something about the GMB being upset may have played a role in this.
So, in India, it is customary to be dropped off at the destination, right up to the door, so that you don’t have to suffer the indignity of finding a place to park, or to walk from the parking lot to the final destination. No, you do not want your host to ask you what happened to your driver!
Drivers, of course, are very helpful for other things, like running small errands, dropping and picking up your kids from their play-dates, and this allows you to use your time well for important board room events or attending kitty parties.
They are also well networked in the organization (assuming you are in the corporate world), and you get to know who is having an affair with whom (so, never have an affair in the car…) or, if the boss is planning a downsizing.
Drivers have their own ego, so the bigger and more expensive your car, the more they rise in the esteem of their fellow drivers.
Having given up my driver, I find that I have to plan my time well, to run errands. I also know the locations of all the coffee shops, because when I take my kids for their late night revels, I need to find a coffee shop where I can sit in comfort and read on my Kindle, or work.
However, it also gives me a great insight into the more “normal” world. Having stepped out of the boardroom, once again I observe how people shop, frolic, gossip, and snarl. I also carry my camera around the place, and take lots of photos. So, I am investing in a small camera that will be even more portable for these slice of life shots.
Finally, when I am driving alone, I relive some of my youth. I play the music that I like, at the volume that I like, and drive the way that I want! There are advantages indeed!
It is a matter of calling, as they say. No more do I have to give up the management of my life and potential accident to the whimsical driving methods of the driver, or worry that he will maul some kid on the road. Now, the responsibility for my accident ( I am a fast but safe driver!) is mine alone. I have reclaimed my own accountability for myself!
The above picture was taken when I was driving for an alumnus meet. I took a wrong turn, and drove an additional 40 km for my pains. The drive gave me much food for thought on national, organizational and personal competitiveness in arithmetical terms, but that will be stuff for the New Year!