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Flag off

On a recent road trip, we stopped a couple of times to use the restroom or pick up some snacks / tea. These are in small dhabas that are strewn across national and state highways across the country. More often than not, vast stretches of road are peppered by several such food joints. Some dhabas, the ones with slightly better amenities / food / toilets tend to have more visitors. In some others, a unique sight greets you.

There is a man, typically a very old one, posted on the road side. He has a flag in hand – painted green on one side, and red on the other. His job? To green-flag and coerce oncoming vehicles to stop at the dhaba that he works for. The red flag? To get other vehicles to slow down as his patrons reverse their cars and and prepare to join the highway.

What do you think of such a job? Would you like to do it? Flagging vehicles all day long, often in the scorching heat – typically in the middle of nowhere, with no chance of seeing your family, let alone living with them? And how much do you think the job pays? Likely nothing. Perhaps just the assurance of having 3 square meals by virtue of association to the dhaba is enough for the person.

We are all super lucky when compared to such people are we not? How much of our gratitude to the universe is enough for this? No amount? And right place right time does matter. The waiter inside will get his tip. But who will tip the flag man?

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