The Uber dream

The last mile mode of transport from the Metro station to my home is now an Uber Pool. It is cheap yet comfortable. I also know that the chances of someone else sharing my ride for the 5 km Pool ride was extremely rare — since it was a remote stretch. Today’s ride was no different — there was no one else sharing my ride. This got me talking with the driver.

He was from Gulbarga, a hot and humid town from the northern part of Karnataka. He followed the Uber dream to Bangalore like so many others and had done well for himself. This was his second car, he proudly proclaimed. 3 more months of driving and he would be loan free — and no more driving he promised…. unless… he bought car #3. He was driving days and nights. He went home at 4am last night and was back on the road at 8am. Did not give me a lot of assurance, my driver not having slept at all. I extolled the virtues of sleeping for at least 6 hours every night, explained how continuous sleep deprivation affects the human body etc etc. He countered with how his loan was on its last legs and how he will be done with all this soon. He also started talking about Uber’s schemes that encourage drivers to keep driving for that extra cash incentive. They have slots, he said, starting from 4am and till 12 in the night. They just keep implicitly encouraging you to keep on driving. And that is what we do, he said.

I asked him what use of his cars if he isn’t around to enjoy them, how years of wealth can erode quickly with days in hospitals. He said he understood but could not help it. He told me that he knew a fellow driver who had a lump in his kidney but could not afford a surgery. Just 3 more months he said. He told me of another fellow driver who just drove into the median near the city railway station because of sleep deprivation. Yet… he kept driving.

It was but a 5km ride. My destination loomed near. His parting questions to me were: Shouldn’t Uber encourage healthy habits amongst its driver-partners? Does Uber care more for its drivers health? Are earnings/incentives/schemes more important than the lives of its drivers? What should Uber do? Isn’t it in Uber’s interest to prevent drivers from slowly hurting themselves?

I had no answers, I wished him luck and got off the car. I empathized with my friend from Gulbarga but I also felt guilty in the knowledge that I will take Uber Pool the next day too. It is cheap yet comfortable, you see.

ps: This is a true story, and valid for all ride-share companies/aggregators, not just Uber. Please pay more attention to the health of your drivers — counsel them, advice them and keep them healthy. These are farmers/ craftsmen / carpenters / masons who have followed the Uber dream. Don’t let them down.

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