An Uber driver I met yesterday

  1. He's 23, and his name is Babu
  2. Hails from rural Vijayawada, a city in southern India
  3. Studied till Class 10, in a Telugu-language government school in the village
  4. Stopped studying at Class 10 because fell in love with a girl from the village
  5. They decided to marry, but the parents didn't agree, because - duh - they were both teens!
  6. The two finally ran away from home and got married at a temple outside their village about a year ago
  7. Babu was 22 and the girl was 18 at the time
  8. The parents finally came around and accepted them as a couple
  9. The bride's father owns a lot of farmland in the village and is pretty rich. He gave the couple dowry of about $5,000, including a supermini car - a Tata Indica.
  10. Babu was legit THRILLED when he got it; he didn't even know how to drive at the time
  11. For a few months Babu was just basically chilling and honeymooning with his wife, and travelling around South India in the new car visiting a lot of temples and shrines, thanks to rich father-in-law
  12. His wife became pregnant soon after marriage
  13. Which meant there was pressure on him to find a job. He was going to start a family at 23!
  14. Luckily, an Uber rep approached Babu while doing the rounds of villages looking for potential drivers/car owners a few months back
  15. Babu jumped at the opportunity and moved to Hyderabad, the closest big city around his village (and also known as India's tech capital)
  16. He's rented out a 1BHK in an apartment complex on the outskirts of Hyderabad, where he lives with his wife and three-month-old kid
  17. He does about 25 trips a day but wants to do a lot more. "Time is money...not waste time," he said in broken English. He's fluent only in Telugu; understands some English but struggles to speak
  18. He doesn't see any point in going back to studies, and doesn't have the money nor time. His wife, who studied till Class 8, is more into dressing up and cooking, he said. Also, now she needs to look after their baby
  19. He drives like he's driving a Ferrari, it's scary! He missed at least three speedbreakers on a well-lit road during our journey.
  20. He had a lot of complaints about customers who didn't give him 5 star ratings, because the ratings are tied to the compensation drivers get from Uber
  21. But on the whole, even though largely uneducated, Babu seems like he's doing well and is happy. He clearly loves driving (although there's a good chance he imagines himself as some larger-than-life Telugu movie actor while driving), and he beams while talking about his wife and daughter
  22. Thinking of him as a father or even a husband is crazy, because he looked 18. He's scrawny, wore a while shirt with grey trousers, and had a light moustache probably grown just to look older
  23. The most surprising thing to me was, he didn't at all seem burdened by all these responsibilities he had towards his family. He seemed really honest, sincere ... but also a little bit goofy and slightly crazy (reminding me of myself 3 years ago!). We could barely understand each other but laughed a lot during that hour-long journey.
  24. He's never been anywhere outside of his village, except for Hyderabad, but wants to take his wife to Bombay and a few hill stations in South India
  25. He got a call from his wife while driving, and she put the phone to their daughters ear, apparently, because Babu started talking in a baby voice. It was really cute.
  26. I just hope he learns to be a more patient driver. I told him that at the end of our journey.
  27. He said, "OK madam...
  28. ... don't forget 5 stars!!!"