Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Auto Driver

This is one day I will never forget. I was to handle a training session for the new joinees in my company but the problem was the training academy was in a place far away from the city. Given the bad state of the roads there, I was pretty reluctant to drive. The travel arrangements had also changed and I was totally unaware of it. So quite expectedly, I missed the bus in the morning and to make matters worse, it was raining cats and dogs. I hurriedly stopped an auto and asked him whether he was willing to drop me there. He asked me how much would pay him and I said "Usually I give 180...what do you say". He requested me to give him an extra 50 Rs as he was in need of money. Well....he was polite unlike the other auto drivers I've seen and I agreed thinking that he might have a valid reason. We had barely crossed 100 meters when he got a call on his mobile. I didnt know what transpired in the conversation bu I could see that the auto driver broke down. Putting bits and pieces together, I could somehow make out what had happened but I wanted to be sure.

When we resumed our journey, I asked him what happened, He didnt say anything but I was asking him persistently. He said that his was a love marriage and his wife was admitted in the hospital as she was expecting their first child today. Because of lack of money, the doctor was not admitting her and he was terribly worried. On top of it, he was an orphan too and his world revolved around her. He was telling me that his friend gave him his mobile asking him to sell it and keep the money as that was all he could do. He was pretty upset that his owner refused to give him a small loan with which he could have taken care of the medical expenses. He showed me his silver lamp which he used to light in front of the Gods saying that he didnt even dream that he had to sell it.
At this point, I didnt know what happened to me. I asked him how much he wanted. He said 6000 but he can manage with 4000. I told him that I will contribute. He was flabbergasted. He asked me I have not even seen you before today, why do you want to help me? I said this is not the time to ask questions. If you need the money, just shut up and take it. We can discuss the reasons later. His emotions took over him as he fell at my feet literally. I told him to stop saying that do that in a temple and do not fall at the feet of a mere mortal like me. I am not God and I dont encourage all this. I asked him to stop in front of an ATM and withdrew Rs 3200 as that was all I had. I came out and gave it to him.
I still maintain that I never knew this man till that day and it didnt even occur to me that he might be lying. All I knew was his world revolved around his family and he was really lucky marrying the girl he loved. Expecting their first kid was a momentous occassion which I wanted him to experience. I got into the auto and he had barely started till this thought struck me. I asked him where the hospital was. He said it was in Royapuram(in the opposite direction of my destination). I tol him that he needs to deposit the money will he reach there on time? he said he'll manage somehow. I told him to stop the auto and got down. I was all prepared to catch another auto and go to Siruseri. The only thing that was running in my mind was he should reach the hospital soon. He left me with great hesitation but not before taking down my number. I didnt have a single detail about him and yet I carried on with a strange satisfaction.
I reached my intended destination and started the training but I was unable to concentrate. I was thinking about the auto driver hoping that all's well with him. I called up my mom and told her the entire incident. I even told her that I didnt know whether he was lying or telling the truth but I am happy that I was able to do something. My mom agreed with me saying that in some situations, we have to listen to our heart...we have no choice. I just finished talking to her and cut the call when I saw someone trying to reach me from a landline number, I picked up the call and was pleasantly surprised. It was the auto driver. He was indeed speaking the truth. Earlier, I was cutting that call thinking it was some stupid credit card or loan agent.....I didnt say anything...he said "I am blessed with a daughter.." I asked how are the mother and child? He said "Both are fine. Can you tell me your mother's name?" I asked him why. He said he wanted to name his daughter that as he believes this happened because of me. I was really overwhelmed. I told him my mothers name and promised him that I'll come to see the child one day.....And yes...I did break down when he said that...couldnt help it.....but this incident forced me to think. We donate to temples and other institutions but we dont help the people who really need it. If his owner had loaned him the money he needed, he wouldnt have been driving the auto the enire night and the morning. If I had not given him the money, who knows what would have happened. I am not saying we shouldnt donate to these places. All I am requesting people is to show some empathy to these people. Maybe I was foolish as I did not bother to verify the facts but others can extend a helping never know what difference it makes to a life.