Life, everyday throws some fine examples at us leaving it on us to decide whether to learn from them or to just let these events pass by. Then be it a pigeon surviving a night at ground unable to fly, or a cat chasing away the snake to save her kittens, an old man selling bananas at the station or the child studying the newspaper collected from garbage bag. These stories try to inspire us, try to stir the thought in us to regard the life, to not consider ourselves unworthy, to strive, to live. Telling us at the top of their pitch that ‘Nothing is impossible if you have will to do it’. One such story I encountered of a taxi driver whom I booked for a full-day site tour of Mumbai. Few hours with this man sitting behind in his taxi and he unfurled the lessons of life in front of my eyes.
Born in small town of Bihar, to a family stricken with utter poverty he was denied of the luxury of going to school and have any sort of education. Started working at the shoes polish and mending shop right from the age he could use his hands to earn bread, he must be 7 at that time. The zeal of earning more hit him hard at the early age itself and he changed his job to work in a garment making factory, making sarees at the tender age of 12. The work was too much and earning was less so he figured out this job is not going to work out either. He switched multiple jobs of utensil mending and working in stores but still he knew it is not going to be enough. One day acting on someone’s advice that Mumbai will fetch you a good job and money, he packed his bags and left for Mumbai. He says, ‘when you don’t have anything, when you don’t know how to do anything you will be ready for any job and if you are penniless, the job of selling cloths on footpath is the best and far more rewarding’. He got in touch with local vendors and every morning he would sprawl out the sheet and on that the multicolor cloths, yelling at top of his pitch whole day to make the sales. This job helped him save some money and make some contacts. Soon he realized this work is getting stagnant and he need to grow so he started working in a restaurant as a servant and a cleaner. Again, the work was too much and the pay far too less. His dedication and will to rise got him job as a side cook who is responsible for chopping the vegetables, preparing some curries in a road side dhaba all day long in front of the burning stove in the hot weather of Mumbai. Owing to his good behavior and tender age he was referred to work as a servant in one of the wealthy family and his job was to take complete care of an old man who was paralyzed. His job was to clean his shit, bath him, feed him, clean the house, cook food… almost everything. But his dedication and his insightful longing to do something much bigger in his life paved the way for him. His ‘master’ as he refers to the old man, saw this will of his to outlive this profession of a servant, the master gave him an idea of to be a taxi driver. He learned to ride the taxi and later with his saved earning and little help from his master, he bought a second hand white color Maruti Swift car. That was going to be his home for coming months. The master helped him financially to stand on his own feet and whatever he is having today he says he owes it all to his master who guided him. For quite a few months he worked under some tour agencies driving day and night. During the day time the car was his office where he worked and night it would he his home where he slept and whenever nature calls he would use community washrooms for getting relieved and taking shower. Slowly and Slowly he saved enough money,1 car expanded to 3 and now 3 expanded to 5, finally he was little satisfied with his achievements. When he look back at the days, the hardship he has faced, the poverty he has seen and the conditions he was raised, he feels proud of himself but as he says ‘I am proud but I’ll never take pride in what I have achieved because I know what I have been through all these years, I have done lot of hard work and all those days taught me how important it is to be grounded, always’ .
Currently he is having a team of 5 drivers under him and 5 cars. He is a head of those drivers and the tour companies contact him whenever, how so ever they need the cars and the drivers. He got married, got a roof in south Mumbai and now even have kids who he proudly says goes to a good Private school and yet this man is not satiated. He is still famished, still hungry for more because yes, this lower middle class is also not enough in this sprawling expensive lifestyle.
He dreams of opening his own tour agency in his hometown and be the boss but also claims that the people who would work under him would be his children because he knows how it feels since he has been through same shoes.
He now compares himself with his friends who are still there in Bihar with the tag of engineering but unemployed. He tries to be that one who shows you path, tell them to at least start working from somewhere. Once you start, new doors will open itself as again he quotes his line ‘now that they are educated they are not able to make peace with the work of cleaning utensils or working in restaurant and would prefer sitting penniless, and here I am, the uneducated poor fellow who slept on footpath and cleaned people’s shit, washed utensils in restaurants and now the owner of 5 cars’.