Right outside the Visakhapatnam Container Terminal a heart warming tale of hard work and friendship unfolds. It takes the shape of a man who is often seen scurrying about the road with a checklist in his hand.
Jagadeeshwara Rao’s life is no walk in the park. His world revolves around gigantic export containers but he’s always up for a quick chat.
Having worked at the container terminal for 15 years, Jagadeeshwara, is a member of the operations team here. “My work takes place at the gates and at the dock. I cannot spare a moment to even sit down.”
What do you do?
Jagadeesh grabs a pen from his shirt pocket and ticks a few boxes in his checklist.
“I make sure shipping containers arrive at the Terminal on time,” he says without looking up from his list.
“I need to be careful to follow the itinerary given to me. Everything must be in order and according to my checklist,” he says as he glances up at five new trucks arriving at the gate with shipping containers on their back.
“I work for 17 hours a day in which I oversee around 100 such export containers every day,” he sighs.
“I don’t have a comfortable chair or an air conditioned office. And I don’t mind this,” he says as he waves to truck drivers getting ready to dock.
“I have an outdoor office, the sky, the roads, the people on the street – I stand, run or walk around. I am free here,” he says.
Don’t you get bored or exhausted of work?
“I get to meet different people because of work.”
“Truck drivers bring shipping containers from across the country. I check on each and every one of them [the drivers] before they enter the Terminal,” he says pointing to a hundred trucks parked by the road.
“The drivers queue up on the road with their well decorated trucks. If I change their schedule, they are patient with me, even after a long journey. In return, I make time for a quick chat with these drivers. It’s fun,” he says.
Jagadeesh speaks to one of the drivers – a skinny boy, probably 19 years old who was leaning out of his window. As he looked down at us, he smiled at his friend below.
“He’s probably wondering what I am up to now?”
Jagadeesh and the driver speak in a different language. “Why don’t you talk to them, they encounter so many adventures on their road trips,” he asks.
“See this timetable,” he says flailing papers in the air. “This is my life and everyday is the same, but I never get bored. Each truck that comes in has a driver with stories of his adventures on the road. Sometimes it’s the same story or joke that a hundred other truck drivers have told me before,” he says.
“In spite of all the confusion, the frustration and all the waiting involved in my line of work – I still talk to them,” he says interrupting his chat with the driver.
“It’s like catching up with old friends. We talk about our families, cultures and problems at home. I share my problems with them too.”
And, what are your problems?
“I never have time.”
“Who has time these days? I make time to meet people, talk to them and get to know them personally. I don’t speak just like that [superficially] with these drivers.
I make time to do other things besides work. I help tourists looking for directions. There are several daily wage workers that linger outside the gates; I guide them to the office. At the same time, my containers keep coming in and I keep ticking the boxes.
What do you like most about your job?
“I can speak many languages fluently because of my interactions with the drivers. I enjoy switching between dialects,” he says.
“It comes naturally to me when I greet them or ask questions. Some have taught me their regional dialects because they are familiar with me.”
How do you manage work related stress?
“This is the secret to managing my stress,” he says while pointing to his name card.
“My job is my identity and I am the only one in my family to have an ID card – when I feel low or stressed I say to myself – this job has given me a life, an identity. I take pride in that fact. Don’t you think that feeling [proud] will drive stress away?” he says as he waves off a group of street kids giggling at him.