Nexie Singh, a Storyteller in the Profession of a Driver

Past regrets and frustration make up the stories of many people’s lives. Those who listen closely, find layers of what truly makes up a person’s life. On a road journey from Himachal Pradesh to New Delhi, the stories of Nexie Singh’s life cost me my entire night’s sleep. But I have no regrets.

I was returning to New Delhi after a short trip to Himachal Pradesh in a taxi. Driving the vehicle was one Nexie Singh. He would introduce himself proudly as “Nexie Singh from Punjab” several times. His daughter’s name is Jessica Singh. If you called her by her first name, he would calmly correct you, “It’s Jessica Singh, not Jessica.”

The road from Himachal Pradesh to New Delhi. Photo: Ismat Ara

Why am I writing about this random man? Because he was an exciting character, and I would end up staying up all night listening to his stories, some of which I hardly even registered.

Deeply pained by the murder of Sidhu Moosewala, a Punjabi pop singer and Congress politician, Nexie announced that Indian politics is a dirty game.

Now that the subject of politics was out, I asked him if he had participated in the year-long farmer’s protest on the borders of New Delhi last year. Of course, he said.

“But I must tell you, my father believed in the idea of a separate nation. He was, what you would call a Khalistani. He agitated against the government for a separate nation,” he said.

At first, I was taken aback. This was clearly an extraordinary conversation. It was already midnight, and I was intrigued.

“And what about you?” I finally asked.

“I believe that people should live happily, people from all religions,” he said.

The whole conversation had taken me by surprise. But things truly started to take a serious turn once he realised that I was a reporter. He asked me, “Can I give you a story? My story?”

As a reporter, this line has stopped impressing me. “Let me give you a story” is not as exciting now as it would have been a few years back. Why? Because not every story can make the cut and be turned into a news worthy story. But Nexie Singh was adamant. I reluctantly agreed.

Over the next few hours, he would tell me all about his brother’s marriage without his mother’s approval and how she, despite the resentment towards their marriage, agreed to donate her kidney to her daughter-in-law when hers stopped responding. Later, her daughter-in-law would get separated from her son, and file a criminal case against the family. “It’s a fake dowry case,” Nexie Singh declares.

The story, though dramatic, indeed can not make the cut. But it was his life’s biggest regret that he couldn’t do much to stop her mother from donating her kidney, and that the family has to still go to court because of the case. And I will treasure the fact that on a long night drive from Himachal Pradesh to New Delhi, I met a man named Nexie Singh, whose kind mother donated her kidney to her daughter-in-law. His mother, who stayed up all night to make aloo parathas for us, with achaar, wrapped firmly in aluminium foil, finally delivered by Nexie Singh’s cousin at 5 am, on the way in Punjab.

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Ismat Ara

Ismat Ara is a journalist based in New Delhi, India. She shares insights from her coverage amid rising hostility towards minorities and declining press freedom.