Francis, A Lonely Taxi Driver in Goa

MUHAMMED NOUSHAD meets a cab driver in Goa and shares his grief.
This is Francis Rodrigues, 35 years old and single. Single is the word that painfully defines him. He grew up as an orphan in the streets of Goa, never knew his mother or father. Studied till tenth standard at a government school and funded himself by doing odd jobs in the neighbourhood where he lived. It was easy to learn driving for him, and he has been a driver for last 18 years. Working day and night. For meagre salaries, bordering exploitation. And it continues.

Someone who doesn’t have a family to support can work nonstop for years and earn nothing. It happened to Francis a lot. He has no saving. Rather, he often finds it difficult even to manage proper food in the restaurants of Goa, especially when it gets costly in seasons. There are times he skips breakfast or dinner for want of money.

Francis has no permanent roof to shelter himself because he doesn’t think he can afford to. But the fact is that he hasn’t yet felt the need for a permanent shelter, even a rented space. He knows well it is expensive in Goa. Another fact, to take care of himself, as he subtly puts it, he doesn’t need a building that one calls home. He has never known what it means to live in a house, being part of a family. But now, he strongly feels he has to stop living this way and needs a house. On rent, to begin with. More importantly, Francis wants to marry. All he has as property is his driving license and a passport. But that could bring great fortune to him, if somebody supports, given his hardworking nature and straightforwardness.

A forlorn and battered life for long, long years in the streets of Goa have given him a deep sense of inescapable cynicism, about the society and the institutions it builds. Nobody helps anybody, was the dialogue he repeated in our brief conversation. I met him in the second week of August in Goa. He was driving me from Goa airport to Madgoan railway station in an odd midnight hour. I sat in the front seat,  beside him, and noticed that he was unusually weak and down. An easily detectable melancholy sat on his face. Like most of the taxi drivers, he was indifferent to initiate a conversation, or rather, I noticed, even to join it when I started asking a few queries. “Didn’t you sleep last night”, I asked, scared of the speed and his insomniac expression. I thought I should keep him awake for the 24 kilometers ahead. But he wasn’t sleepy at all. He spoke as minimum as possible.

Not just previous night, most of the nights he doesn’t have a proper sleep the way homosapiens indulge in, if putting it that way is not insensitive. He sleeps in the car for a few hours, Francis tells, unsmiling. He was sick a few days ago and the medicine doctor suggested was too costly to take. “Don’t you have friends and colleagues to borrow some money?” He shakes his head. Nobody helps substantially, that is what he has learned. Some petty amount they may give. But that wouldn’t do any help. “I stopped being friends with people long back as I have been ridiculed for having no parents and siblings.” His childhood must have been helplessly tough. “You have a passport; can’t you try going abroad?” He nodded and said he is interested. “But who will pay for my visa and air tickets?” Francis wants to marry and settle down. But he hasn’t found any family who would marry their daughter to Francis. “What about the Church? Do you go there for the Sunday mass?” Though not very regular, he does go to the church and the priests know him. “They have their own problems to solve”, Francis says.

While parting, I ask if I can write a brief piece about him, and he has no issues about it. This is Francis’ number if anyone wants to connect and support him: 07030385713.
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