As we set off, my eyes fell on a fewmagazines(kept in an aircraft style pouch) behind the driver’s backrest.
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. Infront of me was a small first-aid box with cotton, dettol and somemedicines.
This was enough for me to realise that I was in a special vehicle.
ThenI looked round again, and discovered more – there was a radio, fireextinguisher, wall clock, calendar, and pictures and symbols of allfaiths
– from Islam and Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.
Therewere also pictures of the heroes of 26/11- Kamte, Salaskar, Karkareand Unnikrishnan.
I realised that not only my vehicle, but also mydriver was special.
I started chatting with him and the initial sense of ridicule anddisbelief gradually diminished.
I gathered that he had been driving anauto rickshaw for the past 8-9 years; he had lost his job when hisemployer’s plastic company was shut down.
He had two school-goingchildren, and he drove from 8 in the morning till 10 at night.
No breakunless he was unwell. "Sahab, ghar mein baith ke T.V dekh kar kya faida? Do paisa income karega toh future mein kaam aayega."
We realised that we had come across a man who represents Mumbai – thespirit of work, the spirit of travel and the spirit of excelling inlife.
I asked him whether he does anything else as I figured that he did nothave too much spare time.
He said that he goes to an old age home forwomen in Andheri once a week or whenever he has some extra income, wherehe donates tooth brushes, toothpastes, soap, hair oil, and other itemsof daily use.
He pointed out to a painted message below the meter thatread: "25 per cent discount on metered fare for the handicapped.
Freerides for blind passengers up to Rs. 50.
My wife and I were struck with awe. The man was a HERO!
A hero whodeserves all our respect!!!
Our journey came to an end;
45 minutes of alesson in humility, selflessness, and of a hero-worshipping Mumbai, mytemporary home.
We disembarked, and all I could do was
to pay him a tipthat would hardly cover a
free ride for a blind man.
I hope, one day, you too have a chance to meet Mr Sandeep Bachhe in hisauto rickshaw: MH-02-Z-8508.