Kenny was his name. A genial six footer, African American. He was invariably dressed in a white suit and a black and white patterned muffler. His rich and resonant southern drawl which could give our movie star, Amitabh Bachchan, a run for his money, completed the picture. He looked like a kindly college professor but I was in for a shock when he introduced himself. “Hi! I am your driver around Washington DC” he grinned. His eyes twinkled, “I shall be your friend, philosopher and guide”.
We were a young couple from India visiting Washington DC for the first time. With all the enthusiasm of the young, my wife and I were raring to get around the city but we were a tad apprehensive about moving out on our own. We need not have worried. Kenny very kindly took us under his wing. Knowing the city intimately he took us to the big sights and small and kept us entertained with nuggets of information about each place. My wife often puzzled about our driver’s depth of knowledge and the philosophical insights he gave to the history of a place he was describing. He was also exceedingly generous with his time not once hustling us to wrap up a leisurely day!
Unwittingly, Kenny was of great help to me one evening. The wife, with a knowing gleam in her eye, suggested a shopping expedition. This was going to burn a nice deep hole in the pocket. Nevertheless, I put on a brave face and summoned Kenny. Sensing my distress, the man, bless his soul, bypassed all the glitzy malls and drove us down to a chain of reasonably priced shops on the outskirts of the city. The wife meanwhile is still wondering why people rave about Washington’s shopping malls.
It took an ankle sprain for me to get to know Kenny more intimately. While my wife hit the Washington Museum trail, I hobbled back to the car where Kenny was snoring. He awoke soon enough and seemed ready to chat. “Tell me something about your life, Kenny”, I urged.
“Well”, he responded,” You may find it somewhat difficult to believe but I was a professor of child psychology for ten years, then I got kind of bored with it. So I thought why not give my childhood passion, driving, a try and now here I am, doing what I love, for the last fifteen years.”
I gaped “ Was it not a huge climb-down, in terms of status, pay and all?”
“Of course it was,” Kenny grinned. “Lots of raised eyebrows but I have always felt that one must do what one must do, what one enjoys and believes in. Keep the child in you alive and follow your dreams.”
By the time Kenny drove us to New York and finally left, I could not but reflect that he had taught me some great lessons about life.