Note - Language has been translated from Hindi, so I have taken creative liberties with certain words. The story is very personal, and I made sure it was okay with him that I wrote about it. He was quite pleased that I wanted to write about it.
Azad was one of those drivers who's picture on the Uber app was extremely deceiving. I got a call from him after he accepted my booking and heard an aggressive and abrasive voice on the other end.
He was sharp and blunt in his questions, and while I'm used to my fair share of folks like this living in Delhi, I wasn't expecting what happened next.
"Where do you want to go?" he growled.
I responded equally aggressively - "I'll let you know when I get into the car. Just get here first."
My past experience of Uber drivers canceling trips early because they didn't want to drive to my destination meant that I was always on edge until I was in the car.
He finally showed up, and I got in.
We spend the first part of the journey in complete silence. Just as we're about 3/4th of the way there, I ask him what his diwali plans are. Delhi is usually really well lit and has a very nice homey feel to it.
"Work all night, man. The romance of Diwali has left my life."
Instantly I thought of this guy as a poet. The pain in his voice was palpable, and I was completely thrown off. I was intrigued and I poked further.
"I have to work. I don't have any other choice. I've got a mother to take care of."
You can't make this shit up, I thought.
"She's in Jaipur with dementia. I'm here trying to earn as much as I can. I go back on weekends to be with her and take care of her. My dad left a long time back, and I had to put my dreams on hold."
So bloody sad.
"I was working in Malaysia as a dockworker. I studied in Jaipur and had a really bright future. I was going to move to Australia and work with my uncle. He's standing as an MP there and all his sons are engineers in Sydney."
This is too much I thought. How could this guy possibly have so much going on in his life? A part of me thought he might have been lying, but for the sake of the story, I thought I'd take his word for what it was.
"I moved back a few years ago and have been working as an Uber driver recently. I hate that I had to give my life up, but what are you going to do?"
Azad helped put a lot of things in my own life in perspective during that journey.