The Millionaire Chauffeur

Here’s another vacation from India. I’ve hired a chauffeur to drive me around the city of Ahmedabad (also called Amdavad)  in Gujarat state. Even though people don’t (more like ‘can’t) drive fast because of the insane traffic, its very stressful so having someone else drive is a good idea. I just found out  that my 22 year old chauffeur (who’s called a “driver” in India) is a multi-millionaire.

How did he become a millionaire?

His family owns farming land, where traditionally they’d do sustenance farming and raise milch cattle. With the boom in India’s economy, real estate prices have shot through the roof and many cities are expanding at a furious rate. His family owned land that was in the path of development and become extremely wealthy. He happened to buy some land a few years ago and thats now worth 10 times what he paid for it, making him a millionaire.

While a million dollars is a sizable amount in any country, in India where the buying power is around 4 times that of the US, it seems even larger.

Despite his wealth he’s a pretty simple chap. He doesn’t drink or smoke and he’s vegetarian. However, one of his side activities is lending money out to people at 10% interest. Thats 10% per month! Often the borrowers don’t pay on time, so he has rough them up a little bit. But you have to be tough if you want to own land in India.

So why does he work as a driver for a measly $75/month?

Mrs. Micah had an interesting post about people who considered certain types  of work to be beneath them.  This obviously isn’t a problem with my driver. Apparently he’s had several run-ins with the law and having an honest job keeps him out of trouble. He makes twice what he earns as a driver from his “money lending” practice and he also has leased out his land to farmers for additional income. On the whole, he does very well. But he doesn’t see himself as a millionaire who’s too rich to work as a driver. He recognizes that he’s gotten lucky and doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to handle this kind of wealth. Which is why he isn’t selling the land and living the large life.

So he works as a driver and maintains that sort of lifestyle (although he does have an expensive cellphone). He sees this job as an opportunity to meet new people, earn a little bit extra money and most importantly stay out of trouble. Having a stable job increases his respectability in his community, and since he’s unmarried thats extremely important.  After all, which father would want his daughter to marry an unemployed guy who keeps getting in trouble with the law, regardless of how much land he’s sitting on.

I guess there is dignity in work after all!

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