Bangalore is known for its unfriendly and rude auto drivers. I was not expecting anything different that evening, as I was forced to take an auto rickshaw since my car was given on service. It was drizzling a bit and the auto drivers were unrelenting to take me to my destination. Some 10-12 autos later, an auto driver stopped and agreed to take me. Surprisingly he did not even ask for the Rs20 over the meter they usually ask.
A few minutes into the drive, I could sense that the driver is kind of lost. He was wiping his tears probably, I was not sure. He took a wrong turn and I told him that. He came back to his senses and said, sorry. I asked him if he was ok. He didn’t say anything for a while and then told me that he has been running around since early morning and hence was a little tensed up. I asked him what happened! His wife was admitted in the hospital for delivery, and the doctor has asked him to arrange for blood and more money as it would be a caesarian. He is out to make some extra money than sitting in the hospital. Moreover, his sister, whom he was taking care of even after her marriage, refused to help him financially, even though she had money with her.
I kept listening to him, as he opened up more. His elder daughter was in school, and she studies well. She wants be a doctor. He was afraid, if he would be able to teach her well. His dad died when he was a young boy, and he has been an auto driver ever since. His mom was diagnosed with cancer, and he had to spend all his earnings on her treatment. He had met with an accident few years back and his right leg was shattered. He cannot sit in one place for more than few hours. So driving the auto is also a challenge.
At one stage he asked me, why someone like him is tested every day of his life. I asked him, when he had the accident, did he wish to live or not. He said, every second, I wanted to live as his daughter was waiting for him. I told him that it is the reason he should be happily living. Think of the day, your kid will become a doctor and how would you feel about it. Your second kid, who will be born today, will also make you proud. Is it not enough reason to live? We spoke more and more.
As I was reaching my home, he turned back and asked me “mai ek gaana gaa saktha hum sir”? I said, “ tumhara auto hai, mast gaao” . He had an amazing voice and he started humming “Mai zindagi ka saath nibhatha chala gaya”. I joined him.
At no point of time he asked me for money or even gave me a hint that he was expecting a favor from me. All he did was talk to me all the way though the 40 minute journey.
As I got down from the auto, I paid him some money. I told him, I don’t know how much is in the meter, and this is not a favor I’m doing. I want you to buy some sweets with the extra money and give it to your daughter, and tell her that she should study well and you will make her a doctor.
He got out of the auto. He was crying. He hugged me and cried more. He said, “Bhai, this is not for the money. Thank You for talking to me. Had I not met you and taken another passenger, I would have probably come under a bus or truck today. I'm going back to the hospital, Jo Hoga Dekha jaayega”.
So many of my neighbors were staring at me with disbelief ! But I felt at peace and I walked back still humming “ barbaadiyon ka shok manana fizul tha, barbaadiyon ka jashan manatha chala gaya…. Mai zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya “…