The sudden sound of the mobile ringing seemed like it will shatter everything around. I hastily grabbed the phone and answered it, so that the sleeping household isn’t disturbed.
It was the cab driver confirming pickup.
I checked my clock … 2:30 AM!
Still an hour from pickup time.
Felt a pang of guilt, on his having to wait for me, at this unearthly hour, so I mumbled that I will be ready to go in half hour.
Honestly, I was lying awake, worried about the cab not turning up. And then spiraling into a dread about having to book an Uber and hoping to get one and reaching airport on time.
That worry evaporated, a sigh of relief.
I could have tossed and dozed for a few more minutes but remembering my promise to the driver, I got up and got ready and was ready to board in half an hour.
Outside, it was drizzling steadily, overcast skies, clouds looked like white shrouds floating eerily. The pitter patter of the rain, which would otherwise arouse the poets to break into rhymes, felt different at this hour. The greyish, dreadful, silent and cold night, hours away from dawn, brought in a melancholic start of my day.
As we neared our condominium exit gate, the security guard, stopped us and peered inside. On seeing me, activated the barrier to let us pass. The guard was alert and fast, in spite of the dreariness around him, he was duty bound.
I expected the roads to be free of traffic, and so did Google Maps, which intimated me that I should reach my destination in 40 minutes.
When I board a ride at night or late hours, my senses are on high alert. And so I was today, scanning everything as we passed by.
And I noticed things, which I wouldn’t have usually during my day drives. The streetlights, standing in straight rows, were bright and glowing although there was a halo around them. And around the halo the rain drops fell and looked like sparkling gold trinkets. The trees and shrubbery, stood too, in grim submission to this bleak weather, knowing well, that the sun will be out and there will be brightness around.
The car was doing good on speed but suddenly slowed down and the scene outside changed. There was a shop where I saw many two-wheelers parked and there was a hustle bustle of activity. There were many young men standing about. Some with raincoats or wind-cheaters and some without any cover from the rain. They all were very busy as if racing against a clock. I realized those were the milk/grocery delivery vendors reporting for their duty and collecting their wares for distribution. Just next to this shop, the newspapers, wrapped under swathes of plastic cover, were being unloaded from a vehicle, and there too, were two-wheelers parked with vendors ready to load.
Not more than an hour ago, when I had woken up, I was feeling upset at having to catch this early morning flight, to travel for work. This was just one day, or maybe a few in a month.
But these vendors, they report to duty on this ungodly hours, come what may—storm, rain, fog or cold—to get the milk and bread and newspaper at our doorsteps. Mostly, even before we are out of our bed.
I felt a sense of awe. Many times, when I haven’t found the milk packet or the newspaper at its place, I had called up and complained heartily. Never realizing what goes behind, bringing those daily essentials to our reach daily.
As we kept going, I saw the municipality sanitary vans lining up in various parts of the city, to keep the city clean and free from water logging.
The traffic was less, but I saw several vehicles carrying goods and wares, groceries and other essentials, snaking across the city, ensuring that the households have the bare necessities, to fill the tummies of kids and office goers.
We were close to the airport, and as we crossed the city limits, we saw a police picket, checking on vehicles exiting and entering. Wearing heavy trench coats, they were alert and brisk.
A forty minute ride that morning gave me a new perspective.
For me to do even a single day’s job well, there are many unseen heroes who are behind me, who until then, I have never known or acknowledged.
The security guards at our gates, the city police, and our soldiers at our borders, ensure I sleep peacefully each day.
The street I would use for my morning jog, would already be swept by the sanitary workers, long before, I step out.
The cab drivers ensure I reach my destinations.
The vendors move like shadowy figures, long before I am up, to place the milk, egg, and bread and newspapers at my doorstep, for a smooth start of my day.
I may be missing out on many other unseen heroes. But I know now that if on some days any of them would just like to sleep in for a bit more, I will understand. I will wait patiently.
As we prepare for our 75th Year of Independence celebration, my salute goes to these unseen heroes, who keep our household running.