Being Mahendra Singh Dhoni's driver for the last nine years, Ashok Kumar Singh says the best part of his job is the respect he gets from the India skipper.
"I have been his driver since 2002, when he was not even in the India team. He treats me like his elder brother, a part of the family. There has never been lack of respect," says Ashok.
Speaking to Hindustan Times at the Birsa Munda airport, where he had come to fetch Dhoni, Ashok says, "It has been a matter of pride for me. Dhoni interacts with me when I take him around. At times, he takes the wheel and I sit."
Resting his arm on the black Pajero, Ashok says, he has been the India captain's personal driver for the entire fleet he owns.
"For the family, there is another driver. Dhoni loves cars and bikes, especially sport utility vehicles. His favourite colour is black. Of the 10 SUVs here in Ranchi, five are black," informs Ashok.
Apart from the Mitsubishi Pajero that was at the airport to receive the captain and his wife, Sakshi, Dhoni's stable of cars includes a Toyota Fortuner and a Mahindra Scorpio. "The Hummer, which Dhoni purchased in 2009, is driven by him alone," Ashok says, adding, he has driven Dhoni to as far as Kolkata and Lucknow.
As to whether his salary had gone up after Dhoni became captain, the 45-year-old says, "Salary is immaterial. The biggest gift I get is his love and respect."
He looked visibly unhappy over the absence of state government officials at the airport to receive Dhoni, who returned to the city on Wednesday for the first time since winning the World Cup.
Dhoni arrived at the airport in a commando outfit apparently to evade his fans. But contrary to expectations, local fans didn't seem too excited to accord a tumultuous welcome to Jharkhand's famous son.
When he came out in army fatigues, surrounded by Z-plus security, many among the journalists and camera crew got confused.