The Autorickshaw Driver
by Svatee Bedi
The auto rickshaw driver Raju, was walking towards his home. He was lost his thoughts. He felt miserable at the thought of being poor. He worked day in and day out just to get a meagre amount at the end of the day from the agency he worked for. Even if he did work over time and rode the auto rickshaw for long distances to earn some extra money, it was never enough.
Everyday he had to deal with all kinds of passengers right from the young to old. He found some of the passengers to be really obnoxious, some bargained even for a single rupee, some paid generously as per the meter fare and some tipped him at times.
Today, he was lucky enough to get a small tip from one of the passenger’s.
His wife, Meena, argued with him about the situation they were in, and constantly coaxed him to borrow some money from the owner of the agency he worked for. He knew he would only get ‘No’ for an answer. And, even if he did borrow some money, how would he repay it later.
While walking, he passed a beggar, sleeping calmly on the footpath. A sense of jealousy arose within him, as he yearned for a good night’s sleep.
A car honked behind him. He got aside to give it way. It was a sedan, with some youngsters laughing aloud. His bitterness only increased on seeing the carefree youngsters.
Raju reached home late in the evening after a long day’s work. He had taken extra customers and covered longer distances than the other days.
He was exhausted running the auto rickshaw the entire day, beating the heat and the pollution.
By the time he reached home, he felt drowsy.
The auto rickshaw driver, Raju stayed in the slums of Mumbai.
The small bricked house neither had a proper window nor a door. The open space of the window and the door was covered with cloth.
During the rains, the water leaked from the walls and the thatched roof.
There was a drain near the tiny house he stayed in, from which a foul smell came the entire day.
His six year old son, Gopal, studied in the nearby school.
“The school fees needs to be paid by next week” Meena said anxiously, as Raju entered the house.
A deep sense of despair overwhelmed him on hearing his wife’s words.
Raju lied down on the floor without saying anything.
Meena brought some food for him to eat. She went to sleep in the hope that
her husband would eat the food.
When Meena got up in the morning, she didn’t find Raju around.
She picked up the untouched plate, lying on the floor.
Once Raju reached the agency office, he changed into the brown uniform. Raju collected the keys and went to the autorickshaw. He drove to the nearby autorickshaw stand. Soon, he found a passenger.
The passenger was an old man who was using a walking stick. Raju helped him get into the autorickshaw.
The next week was tougher for Raju. His wife, Meena was constantly arguing with him for not being able to arrange the money for their son’s school fees. At times, Meena sobbed thinking about the situation they were in and how will they be able to pay the money.
Raju knew that despite his constant efforts, he was only failing.
The days went by without any results. Raju and Meena’s frustration was only growing with the passing days.
Finally when one day was left to pay the fees, both of them gave up any hope.
That day Raju didn’t take any extra rides.
At the end of the day Raju went back to the agency to park the auto rickshaw .
After parking the auto rickshaw, he started cleaning the seats.
While cleaning, the passenger seat he found a pouch lying on the seat.
He picked up the pouch and opened it.
His eyes grew wide open on seeing the contents of the pouch.
The pouch contained a huge amount of cash. Raju didn’t know what to think on seeing it.
His happiness knew no bounds. He felt that all his problems were now over.
He looked around him to check whether anyone had seen him opening the pouch.
There was no one around.
He carefully pocketed the pouch, and started walking back to his home.
He smiled to himself as he walked down the road.
His mind was full of thoughts. Thoughts to be able to pay his son’s school fees, thoughts of being able to take care of the household expenses, thoughts of staying in a better home and buying Meena everything she wished for.
While walking, he started introspecting himself.
“What will he tell his son and wife about the money?
What kind of values, was he trying to inculcate in his son? He had always talked to his son about honesty and truthfulness, and now what has he done?” he thought.
With these thoughts in mind, he crossed the drain. He took out the pouch from his pocket and threw it in the drain.***