S RADHAPRATHI says that it is touching to find that we have not lost the knack of forming a bond with people despite the fact that urban culture is more along the lines of each to his own.
The bond that most parents form with the autorickshaw drivers who take their children is unique. To the auto rickshaw driver it is a source of steady, dependable income and to the parents of the children it is economical and trustworthy transportation. But there is more to this relationship than which meets the eye. If we brush aside a few rare cases of extremely callous auto drivers and inevitable accidents the track record of these drivers is rather clean and remarkable. They become the temporary guardians of these children.
Sometimes when these children are sick they are taken to the doctor by these good samaritans. They are very conscientious about their responsibilities. The greed of the extra buck bypasses them because they would not dream of sabotaging their stable income but also forgo the trust the parents and children have in them.
Not just a driver
Mohammed (48) from Belgaum said that he always checks whether the children have their badges, ties and belts on before they get into the auto. Ravi (30) from Mysore gives away a toffee as a prize for good behaviour. There were some drivers who said that they were sometimes roped in by the families on Sundays and public holidays to go on an outing. Some auto drivers said that they were trusted with considerable sums of money and were asked to pay the school fees, fetch or deliver clothes at the tailor’s, or dry cleaners, cooking gas cylinders, provisions and vegetables at the behest of their clients.
In a rare but true instance, Seenappa, a parent trusts his house key with the auto driver who opens the house for the children and baby sits them for an hour till the mother comes home from work. There are times when he helps them with the home work or feeds them. Marappa (57) from Bangalore has been driving school children to their destinations for the past twenty years.
He remembers the children by their names and is proud that most of them are well placed in life today.
It is heartening to note that the parents had nothing but words of praise for these auto drivers. They unabashedly admitted that life would have been much more complicated for them but for these knights in shining armour in whom they reposed so much trust.
The presence of these wheeled angels lifted a load of worries off their tensed lives though for a price. All parents invariably said that they relied on these drivers for the safety and comfort of their children and they had no regrets about their decision.
As for the children the younger ones appear to worship their auto uncle sometimes much more than their own uncle who lives in a faraway town. The older children share a friendly bond and discuss a lot of current events and sometimes even personal problems with them. Narasimha Swamy always makes it a point to buy a gift of a pen for all the children he ferries on the tenth of April. Varadan fastens two balloons on his auto whenever it is any of the kids birthday.
The world of these auto drivers is indeed fascinating and it throws light on the fact that several traits of humanitarian values can most definitely co-exist with commercial gains in the contemporary urban society. With such warm people around how can there be any room for animosity or acrimony? A sense of responsibility, coupled with gestures of concern and generosity defines most of these men who are trusted with the apples of several people’s eyes.
When people who are not related to us by any length of imagination can make such an indelible impression on our lives is it not time for us to understand that we too can make a difference in somebody’s life in our own way?