By Sadho Ram
So you are a writer, Sir. Hun…
And you keep travelling?
From city to city, just to write the stories?
Must be an exciting life, Sir! Hun…
From last 5 years, Sir.
Yes, it’s been five years since I came here to Bombay.
No, Sir, I don’t call it Mumbai.
I like the name Bombay, that’s why, no particular reason why I call Bombay as Bombay.
No, no. I came here with a hope to get a job in some company, Sir.
My cousin brother, yes, he brought me here.
I’m a 12th pass, Sir.
No, no one took me in.
I searched and searched. But nothing happened.
A few of them didn’t even consider talking to me after finding out that I’m 12th pass and I’m from Bihar and happen to be a Muslim.
Yes, Sir, a Muslim I’m.
No, I didn’t feel bad, Sir.
It’s not their fault, Sir.
This is how the people are brought up in society. They judge you and your character by your religion, Sir.
And this didn’t happen with only me, there are many who are judged based on the community that they belong to… so it didn’t affect me, because I was not the only one.
No, Sir. They did what they had to; I’m doing what I have to.
Yes, yes, I’m very happy with my life, Sir.
With this auto, sir, I married off my two little sisters.
Actually one is married; the other’s marriage is fixed. I’ve made all the arrangements for it.
Since about 5 years, Sir.
Yes, just about the time I came here, I’ve been driving this auto.
Actually, no, not this auto. This is a brand new one, Sir.
Yes, yes, I just brought it a week ago.
Before this one, I was driving the one my cousin brother had given me.
It was his auto, Sir, but he gave it to me to drive at night.
Yes, very kind man, Sir. Like a father to me.
My father, Sir?
My father is dead, Sir.
No, no, Sir, please don’t be sorry.
He died doing what he did.
He was a truck driver, Sir. Met with an accident, and died on the spot.
His head was crushed under the wheel.
Yes, I cry sometime.
His name is Rizwan, Sir.
Yes, my cousin brother, who brought me here.
Has been really kind to me, otherwise who does what he did and still is doing for me?
No one has time for anyone, Sir.
My own relatives deserted me. After my father’s death, they did support me for about 3-4 months, but then eventually started distancing themselves.
I did not know what to do. There was nowhere to go, Sir. That’s when Rizwan came.
Almost like a blessing.
He not only gave me his auto to drive, Sir, but also kept me with him, and is still sheltering me.
And I did not even have a license to drive at that time, Sir.
So what would he do, you know?
He would go to the area constable and give him some money and fix me so that when they catch me, they wouldn’t, you know, fine me, because their man is already paid and I’m immune for 2 weeks.
Yes, every 2 week, Rizwan Bhai jaan fixed me and helped me.
This went on for about few months. Yes, and then I got my license.
Yes, I was very happy. I thought about my father.
No, I don’t regret being an auto-rickshaw driver, Sir.
I believe no job is bad or small.
It’s the people, Sir.
They, we malign it, the work, Sir.
And you only tell me, Sir, how can a job, regardless of what kind it is, if it is helping me live my life on my own terms and giving me the freedom to do the thing I want and enabling me to look after my family, can be ever wrong or bad?
Can it be? No, right?
Yes, so you see, I feel proud of myself as an Auto-rickshaw driver.
I take pride in what I do, Sir.
This is me.
How can I not like my identity which provides for my life and my family?
Can you, Sir?
No, Sir, I’m just a simple man, doing what I have to do, living my life as freely as possible for me.
Oh, I love this city, Sir.
I love Bombay. Yes, very much.
Why, no such specific reason, just that I find the people of this city to be quite nice and honest, Sir.
They do hard work here and live their life to the fullest.
Of course, there are bad people, as always there are bound to be, everywhere.
But that doesn’t make it a bad city. Does it?
The people here have not wronged me, Sir, and I’ve always tried to not do any wrong to anyone here.
Believe me, Sir, a lot of time, my passengers forget their stuff in my auto, and never return back.
I find them out and return it to them.
If I can’t find them, I deposit the stuff at Police station, Sir.
No, I never took anything home. Never.
Yes, sometimes the urge is there, but it is something I’ve resisted, Sir.
Money is what, Sir? Just a mere necessity to survive in today’s world.
Anyone can acquire it anytime they want, if they work hard for it.
But, Sir, my Imaan, my Zameer, Sir, if I lose it once, I can never get it back.
Money… I can always get it by working hard.
But no matter how hard I work, after losing my Imaan, my Zameer, I can never get it back.
No matter what I do. Once it’s lost, it’s lost forever.
And I can’t live without my Imaan, my Zameer, Sir. Never.
130 rupees, Sir. Yes, that’s it.
Yes, the place you are looking for is just behind the Mehboob Studios. Yes.
Anis… Mohammad Anis.
#With special thanks to Richa Jain for grammatical corrections.