Saturday, July 01, 2006

Millionaire on a bus

I was having dinner with a friend and his father, and they told me this story they heard at an Indian restaurant in Chicago.

The owner started chatting with my friend’s dad (who’s here purely on holiday, spending time with his son), and asked if he was here on “business”, or if he wanted to start a business. Friend’s dad just listened on, and the restaurant owner (who seemed to love to talk to strangers, as is so common across most of Asia) told him his story. He came to the States in the 60’s, and spent time doing all the stereotypical things an Indian would do: work in a seven-eleven, run a gas station, grocery store, Indian restaurant.

He finally discovered the secret to immense wealth. Real estate (Lex Luthor certainly is on to something in Superman).

All you need to do is buy an apartment complex in a good location, he said. Then the money keeps rolling in, endlessly (or more precisely, "paisa aata hain, phir aata hain, phir aata rehta hain").

He apparently ended the conversation saying he was a millionaire many times over, but continued to run the restaurant for fun.

This reminded me of a gentleman we met on a bus two or three years ago. It was a lazy, sunny, summer weekend in Seattle, and we boarded the bus, which was empty (except for the driver and us). So, we started chatting with the driver, an elderly, pleasant looking gentleman. He turned out to be very chatty, and with an opinion on everything (just like any good bus driver in Tamil Nadu would).

Upon guessing that we were Indian (and beaming widely in satisfaction for a job well done after doing so), he revealed that he was Persian. He’d been in the States for over thirty years, had married and settled down here to raise his kids. He nostalgically talked about his homeland, the “land of roses”, used a few choice epithets for the theocracy there, scoffed at Pakistan (declaring it to be an unfortunate historical accident), and then started to complain about bus driving.

His hands apparently hurt him terribly, after 30 years of driving the bus. The hours were long, and the job tough and thankless.

I said it was a job though, and it probably helped him pay the bills.

He smiled, and said he didn’t do it for the money. He had more than enough for his needs, but did the job, because this was the job that had started him off in life. He couldn’t give it up. But his kids were all doing rather well, and he himself was doing fine. He owned some shops and restaurants with his kids.

And then came the icing on the cake, as he declared

“Five years ago, I officially became a millionaire. My wealth must have quadrupled since then. But I can’t give up this job ever.”

Our bus driver was a millionaire.

Only in America?

10 comments:

Amrit said...

My mamaji (my Mom's big brother) too runs a gas-station-cum-something-else in California. People can fill gas and then buy things. I guess many Indians own such businesses in the USA. I think they call the place AM-PM mart.

Amrit
http://www.writingcave.com

Anonymous said...

Yes Only in America...we met once met a millionare taxi driver(Lebanese) in Chicago.He had the same story like you have narrated.

Richard Quick, Millionaire said...

Becoming a millionaire is easy, if you know how.

Drop by my blog. I'll teach you 101 ways.

See you on the Veranda!

Richard Quick, Esq.
Founder, NAAWP

D said...

all these millionaires doing ordinary jobs remind me of the billionaire in Flight 714 in Tintin!

Hi to you too. Mail maadi swami. we could catch up

Sujatha said...

There's a book called "The Millionaire Next Door" that recounts many such tales - dry clean shop owners, cab drivers, etc. who've saved money. This post is good b/c it reminds us not to make assumptions about people and their station in life.

Sunil said...

Amrit.....yes indeed, many own them, but how many of them are millionaires? :-)

Anonymous....it's a pity we only seem to meet such people, but at least i'm rather penniless myself.

Richard quick......some day i'll drop by.

D.....he cheated in battleships. That cannot be condoned. Mail madthini......aaram a?

Sujatha......now that would be a nice book to read...and perhaps inspire me.

Anonymous said...

Yes I met one in a bus too. An old black lady taking the bus to the hospital in the San francisco bay area.
Well she had a house left to her by her father, and the house was in process of being sold.. generating 2 million . Palo Alto .

Sunil said...

anonymous.....I wish I had a huge house left to me by my dad in Paolo Alto. Then I could retire, and spend my time blogging :-)

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