I had spent the last two days pestering and harassing those unfortunate friends of mine who were working on the Parsi New Year. Having effectively spent half a day gloating over not having to go to work, I was returning from Juhu when I met Sandeep.
Now Sandeep is an auto driver but he is not by any stretch of your imagination the same species that is rude, disgruntled, ready to take you for a ride (literally) that is quintessential a Mumbai auto driver .
The first thing that caught my attention were the acoustics in the erstwhile humble auto. Well after what Sandeep had done the vehicle had lost all its humility.
The add ons in the three wheeler included
- A TV( to play important matches),
- A first aid kit
- An ashtray
- A magazine holder.
Apart from that he had messages written all over the interiors:
- Social message to have Safe sex
- A declaration that a 25% discount would be given to handicap (he takes the blind for free)
- An apology for not having a toilet
And best of all an offer to help with anything which spoke volumes of the man himself.
I could not resist anymore and started a conversation with Sandeep. I tried to act sober but my glee kind of tumbled out and I told him he had the most interesting auto I had ever seen. He said that he was thinking of improving it further coming Diwali it was in for a complete overhaul after 8 years. He intended to add a DVD player which the customers could use to play CDs/DVDs of their choice for a nominal extra charge. He stated matter of factly that ‘Mumbai mein bahut competition hai, kuch extra tho karma padta hai madam’. Well that is value addition for you in real life.
I guess I was not the only one to be impressed by this guy .He has received recognition in many of the leading newspapers, acted in movies (in Veer Zaara he had a ten minute role cause of which he has seen it 27 times, Mumbai Meri Jaan), been part of MTV bakra.
But the reason why I asked Robin to let me write about him is not just because of the passion he has for his work. This guy is consciously doing his bit to make a difference he spends time in a school for the mentally challenged and proudly claims that the kids there filled his hands with rakhi this Saturday. Rs. 200 every month goes to an old age home where he says that a 108 year old resident inspires him with her spirit to live. He has made friends and gained respect amongst the elite doctors of Leelavati Hospital cause of the victims he helped in the Mumbai bomb blast.
I had almost reached home when I told Sandeep that I would write about him on the Internet. He wanted to know what internet was, I explained and his response was ‘Madam agar isse Mumbai ka naam hoga tho zaroor likhna’. I got off an told him that I hoped that I meet him post Diwali……till then Sandeep becomes for me another embodiment of the spirit of the city that never fails to surprise me.