Amazing Auto Driver in Mumbai*

Suvendu Roy of Titan Industries shares his inspirational encounter with a rickshaw driver in Mumbai.
Last Sunday, my wife, kid and I had to travel to Andheri from Bandra. When I waved at a passing auto rickshaw, little did I expect that this ride would be any different?
As we set off, my eyes fell on a few magazines (kept in an aircraft style pouch) behind the driver’s back rest. I looked in front and there was a small TV. The driver had put on the Doordarshan channel. My wife and I looked at each other with disbelief and amusement. In front of me was a small first-aid box with cotton, dettol and some medicines. This was enough for me to realise that I was in a special vehicle. Then I looked around again, and discovered more -there was a radio, fire extinguisher, wall clock, calendar, and pictures and symbols of all faiths‘ from Islam and Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. There were also pictures of the heroes of 26/11- Kamte, Salaskar, Karkare and Unnikrishnan. I realised that not only my vehicle, but also my driver was special.
I started chatting with him and the initial sense of ridicule and disbelief gradually diminished. I gathered that he had been driving an auto rickshaw for the past 8-9 years; he had lost his job when his employer’s plastic company was shut down. He had two school-going children, and he drove from 8 in the morning till 10 at night. No break unless he was unwell. “Sahab, ghar mein baith ke TV dekh kar kya faida? Do paisa income karega toh future mein kaam aayega.” (Sir, what’s the use of simply sitting at home and watching TV? If I earn some income, then it will be useful in the future.)
We realised that we had come across a man who represents Mumbai the spirit of work, the spirit of travel and the spirit of excelling in life. I asked him whether he does anything else as I figured that he did not have too much spare time. He said that he goes to an old age home for women in Andheri once a week or whenever he has some extra income, where he donates tooth brushes, toothpastes, soap, hair oil, and other items of daily use. He pointed out to a painted message below the meter that read: 25 per cent discount on metered fare for the handicapped. Free rides for blind passengers up to Rs50. He also said that his auto was mentioned on Radio Mirchi twice by the station RJs. The Marathi press in Mumbai knows about him and has written a few pieces on him and his vehicle.
My wife and I were struck with awe. The man is a HERO! A hero who deserves all our respect. I know that my son, once he grows up, will realise that we have met a genuine hero. He has put questions to me such as why should we help other people? I will try to keep this incident alive in his memory.
Our journey came to an end; 45 minutes of a lesson in humility, selflessness and of a hero-worshipping Mumbai my temporary home. We disembarked, and all I could do was to pay him a tip that would hardly cover a free ride for a blind man.
He has got a first aid box on the left and a newspaper box on right (which had all hindi-english- marathi-gujrati and economic times).
He has got a tv on the top with cable (I was watching colors channel) and below that is the tissue box. On the left is the mandir types and don’t miss the “Only gandhigiri” written there, below that is the calendar and a notepad and pen along with a blue fan (which is blowing towards the customer who sits) 25% discount for handicapped!! Who on this earth can expect something like this from a rickshawala yaar!!
It’s amazing there are people still alive like him in this world! I hope, one day, you too have a chance to meet Mr. Sander Bache in his auto rickshaw.
* Posted by: “Suita Dissolve”, MangaloreanCatholics@gmail.com, Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:18 am (PDT)

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