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The highway men

- Rural brothers guide trucks, earn well

Not exactly Raju Guide, Dev Anand’s role of a lifetime where a travel guide ends up showing his own self the way to salvation. But brothers Umesh and Shailesh Mishra of Neori village near Ranchi, can show many city-bred youths the way to off-the- beaten-track success.

Each earns Rs 20,000 in a place where a family earning Rs 10,000 a month is considered affluent. And they are only in their early twenties.

Umesh, a graduate, and Shailesh, who studied till intermediate, knew they didn’t have too many career options. They could have tried their luck in some government job exam, farmed or taken up an ill-paying sales job. That’s the entire gamut of careers that Neori, 12 km from the state capital, offers.

Umesh and Shailesh chose to think out of the box. They realised that Neori, close to the capital and the NH-33 stretch of Hazaribagh and Ranchi Road, had a unique advantage. Everyday, hordes of trucks, buses and four-wheelers crossed the stretch, stopping on the way and asking passers-by for directions. The brothers decided that they would step in to give drivers that guidance instead.

The duo opened Guide Ka Dukan with their father Madhao Mishra’s help two years ago and never looked back.

“Business is good by god’s grace,” said 24-year-old Shailesh, elder than Umesh by two years. “Our Guide Ka Dukan kiosk on NH-33 near Vikas Vidyalaya is a well-known landmark for drivers and truckers. We get 12-15 clients a day. We’ve also put up a placard on our shop with our numbers,” he added.

Umesh explained why. “Many trucks come to Ranchi via the highway from Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, carrying consumer goods and household utilities. When they see our placard, they know where to get the correct directions.” The duo have also given over 10,000 visiting cards to truckers.

“We know the godowns of different firms and roads of the state capital. If truckers go unaided, they face difficulties. They prefer to hire our services, reach their destinations on time, unload their goods and get out of the city before no-entry time,” said Shailesh.

Truckers have to hurry, because no-entry lasts from 9am to 9pm. Trucks with consumer goods are allowed to enter Ranchi only from 9pm to 9am. If truckers don’t finish tasks in time, they have to wait for the next day, which drains money and time.

Small wonder that Umesh and Shailesh are indispensable ready reckoners for truckers. Tourists, though in much fewer numbers, also ask for directions.

“We haven’t kept a fixed charge. We depend on our clients’ goodwill. But no one pays us less than Rs 300-400,” smiled Umesh.