Saturday, July 2, 2011

An Autowallah To Remember

"Humne zindagi mein paisa toh nahi kamaya, lekin izzat bahut kamayi hai"

Sounds filmi. Doesn't it? This, was a pet line of the autowallah who dropped me home today, all the way from Lajpat Nagar. And, at the end of a journey costing more than a hundred and fifty rupees on the meter, when he refused to take a paisa from me, I was forced to believe each part of his life's story, narrated lovingly to me, with exquisite detailing- at times making me stop and wonder if everything he said was actually true.

He was a happy man. A very happy man. Driving auto was a pass-time for him. What he actually did was sing sufi bhajans of Sai Baba, professionally.. I have his card, which I received with a smile in return for a forced payment of half the actual amount on the meter. This is the second time an autowallah has refused to take money from me, though both stories belong to extremely different contexts. His', like many of his ilk, was a life of struggle. But, if I go by his version of things, he had emerged more than successful. More curiously, it was not success that intoxicated him, it was devotion to Baba. He was a man, who no doubt still met with troubles, but the image of Baba in his heart took care of all. The story was the same (forgive my nonchalance)- his father expired while he was still young and the onus of running his family fell on him. This drove him towards his current occupation, but the love for Baba kept enticing him. And today, when his whole family is settled- his first sister married in UK, his second sister an air hostess with Jet Airways, his younger brother an aspiring IPS ("I'll do everything to make him one"- he said with a father's tenderness and concern), and his two little daughters secure under a father who, under the evil shadow of skewed sex ratios prevalent in our nation since forever, takes pride in not having any sons, takes pride in having daughters who "at least ask me for water when I reach home fatigued. Didi, its only daughters, sons don't do this."

Yes, he called me didi, and it was refreshing to hear him talk. He was cautious. When I looked too much into the mobile screen for texting my friends, he immediately withdrew from talking. The disappointment in his features, so clearly visible via the rear view mirror, ached my heart. I have not done this for the closest of people, but for him, I abandoned my cell phone, and heard him through. And I do not regret it one bit. He spoke little of his family, a lot of Baba, and how singing for him made him feel like the most fortunate of people alive. It all started at a phone call, perhaps to invite him and his mandali for an evening of Sai bhajans. After inquiring a little more, tho Sufi chord struck. He sings Sai, and I sing Bulleh Shah and Khusrau- both of us have immense and inspiring respect for each others devotion. To call me a novice and him a veteran- both would be understatements.

My mother would scold me if I ever, even inaudibly hummed while travelling in an auto. May be she found it embarrassing; but sometimes, the weather would be so inviting, that I would be led on, beguiled to sing. Today, as the fickle weather played its cards, and transformed the day from a scorching morning into a pleasant, rain washed evening, I was once again forced to hum a sufiyana song, which I usually sing for my little angel, my cousin. Only this time, I had familiar and agreeable company. The autowallah did not join me to sing, but when I stopped humming, gave me a few tips for polishing my singing, which left me both, astonished and thankful.

There is a lot which still comes to mind, and not all of it I can record here. I do distinctly remember him shedding a few tears, given their due time to flow out, and then suppressed and forgotten behind a striking, yet a calm smile. He disclosed philosophies with which he lived his life, and there was an unmistakable truthfulness in them. In today's time and age, where Delhi autowallah are infamous for all their notorious behaviour, people like Deepak Chaddha (oh thats his name, I have his card, remember?), help re-instill faith in the goodness of human existence. Things even out. Even when I met the most annoying autowallah, I endeavored to keep my cool, and be as nice as possible, for fighting, calling names, never helps. Because of the remarkable man I met today, all of the previous ill memories of autowallahs I would hate to travel with except under situations of extreme duress were wiped away effortlessly. I never talk to autowallahs, I am scared of them. Today, when I did talk to one, I felt I met a really noble soul. Not being judgmental about people helps, doesn't it?

My only regret, I wish we spoke more Sufi. Right before I got down, he quoted one couplet, one of the most common ones- "Laali mere laal ki, jit dekhoon ut laal/ Laali dekhan main gayi, te main bhi ho gayi laal." I do not remember the context he uttered it in, but I was convinced this was going to be the line that'll ring in my heart when I sat down to pen my journal at night. Not quite. What remains in my heart is the line below, which he uttered along with his exceptionally simple and humble smile.

"Aadmi bada paise se nahi banta, vyavhaar se banta hai. Main aapke liye baba se dua karoonga."


  1. really nice :):)

  2. beautiful ... the observations, the interest you showed in him with your acts is commendable ... ya here the people are nice but cuz of something or the other they keep quiet, they keep their secrets in their heart and when they see the similar soul, they express it and as you mentioned sometime Tears too show up ... its very common with me when and wherever I am, I do talk to people and their souls...

    " ache vyavhaar se paisa aur izaat kamaya jaa sakta hai, bohat paisa hone se vyavhaar nahi kama sakte "

  3. hey SAUMYA... gr8 post, very first HUMANLY read of the day... nice post..and you deserve the best for being so nice... keep cheering...

    (you know, i always wonder as how you can write so detailed,.. but then i say to myself.. thats SAUMYA, she is blessed for that..)

  4. The lines are much alike
    Ranjha Ranjha Kardi Ni Mein, Aapay Ranjha Hui
    Ranjha Kaho Saheliyoon, Meino Heer Na Aakho Koi

    Jahaan bhi dekhun usi ka noor hai, as simple as that, in a more poetic way though :)

    A touching story, a beautiful write up.

    Blasphemous Aesthete

  5. Its hard to comment here. Yes, it is. I wonder whether I shall appreciate you or the autowalla. Here, I'll pray for him first. God bless him.
    Now, your turn. Splendid job, must say.

  6. @Chandan and Pallak Jagga-
    Makes me so happy! To have you both back here, and see your comments after so long. Thank you both!

  7. @Achint Mathur
    You know bhaiya, the fact about stumbling upon a similar soul, and sharing your innate thoughts with him/her, my autowallah spoke of that. You have yourself been a keen observer through life. I guess the inspiration for writing such a post came from you. Even if it did not, i know I wanted to see your comment here rather badly. Thanks!

  8. @Bhargav
    Thank you so much for such adulation, but if you talk of detailing and descriptions, bloggers like Blasphemous Aesthete, who has left a comment above, are reverential. Still, heartfelt gratitude for all the positivity you spread on my blog each time you leave a comment.

  9. @Blasphemous Asthete
    I am so glad to see your comment here, for I have been secretly admiring your blog since a long, long time now. Thank you. And yes, what Kabir said in my couplet and Bulleh Shah said in yours are essentially the same in essence. You're right, jahaan bhi dekhoon, uska noor hai...and the ultimate achievement for a lover is to be drenched such in that noor, that no perceivable difference exists between the lover and his object of love (the source of that noor).

    Thank you so much, once again!

  10. @Aavika-
    Thanks bachche! You have an inimitable style of reacting to him, you know that? And its wonderful, it makes me feel warm. Thank you!

  11. hey Saumya...loved reading fact I saw this post of urs on the dashboard yesterday...but couldn't read specially came here to have a read and I must say there are some moments, some talks which simply touch ur heart. I've had my share of talks with strangers as well...

  12. @Aakriti
    Thanks for stopping by di. I concur. There are some people who simply touch your heart in the course of one simple conversation. A lot of nice people I've met are now washed off from my memory; not this one. Penning down, in this context, helps.

  13. thats a compliment... thanks.. :)

  14. Yes. That was an intended compliment. I have a lot of admiration for you :)

  15. nice.. :) everything happens for a reason.. :)

  16. that is a good narration. you often find holistic souls in the most unexpected of places..

  17. Thank you Namit! I was actually quite eager that you read it. It was one of the most weird and awesome experiences I've had.

  18. There are few autowallah in Delhi who wins heart over money.

    1. Yes! Deepak ji was one who made me believe that goodness can exist in a swamp of selfishness and deceit.