Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The power of education.
The arrangement lasts less than half a day. ' The font ' is supposed to be driven around Delhi in a hotel car. Safe, clean, air conditioned . By lunchtime on the first day the hotel BMW has gone ; replaced by Mr.Singh and his battered Hyundai taxi. I'm told the hotel car is " a ridiculous expense ".
Mr Singh is forty five. He left school at thirteen. His wife at twelve. They have three children. A daughter aged nineteen, sons aged seventeen and thirteen. Mr. Singh works six days a week to pay for his familys education. He sees them once a week. On Friday afternoon he finishes work and drives the four hours back home to his village. He's back at work on Saturday. Six nights a week he sleeps in his car. His daughter is in her second year at university. She's the first person in their family to be schooled beyond their early teens. Mr.Singh is very, very proud of her. Her photo is sellotaped onto the centre of the dashboard next to the garlanded plastic statue of the elephant god. Mr. Singh hopes his youngest son will be a doctor. The middle one loves motorbikes. He tells me proudly that his house has books.
Mr. Singhs taxi costs him $10 a day to run. This includes fuel ( and to Angus's surprise ) a budget for maintenance and repairs. Somedays Mr.Singh makes twenty dollars, thirty if he has an aiport run, forty on a really good day. In the long hot summer when there are no tourists he's lucky to break even. After the bank loan on the taxi his biggest outlay is for the childrens schooling. '' We are not educated people but our children will be " he says with a smile.
So it is that at eight every morning Mr.Singh and his battered Hyundai arrive at the hotels front door. They wait there alongside the Rolls Royces and Mercedes. Every morning the General Manager ask Angus if ' the font ' wouldn't prefer to use a hotel car. Every morning ' the font ' replies that Mr.Singh's taxi will be just fine. Every morning the managers smile becomes just that little bit less sincere. Angus and the hotel BMW turn right to head off to talk to men in dark suits . Mr.Singh , ' the font ' and the venerable Hyundai turn left out of the gates towards the school for blind girls. Mr.Singh seems unfazed by the bizarre places he's asked to drive to. " Please don't worry sir. I've been driving for twenty three years and never been killed ".
The power of education. The drive for self improvement. America and Scotland were made by generations of people like Mr.Singh. Hard working, uncomplicated, honest, diligent. Fervent believers in education. Willing to work all the hours under the sun to pay for it. By mid-century India is expected to have the biggest economy in the world. Looking at Mr.Singh Angus can understand why . As for Europe ?