Ajay Chikara, 19, is Delhi Transport Corporation’s (DTC) youngest employee. A junior clerk at the corporation’s Rohini Sector 3 depot, his colleagues are twice or thrice his age. They call him beta (son) and often tease him about his age.
But it wasn’t meant to be like this.
A moment of rage changed everything in his life.
On May 10 last year, Ajay’s father Ashok Kumar -- a DTC bus driver -- was beaten to death by a woman and her son in west Delhi’s Mundka village after his bus grazed past their motorcycle.
It was a moment of madness in which Ajay lost his father and with him all his dreams.
The phone call
Ajay was at the gates of Jeevan Jyoti Hospital in Nangloi when he got a phone call from his uncle – a conversation he will never forget. His mother Rakesh was admitted just five days ago for stomach infection. She was to be discharged that afternoon. The previous night, Ajay had asked his father money to pay hospital bills. That was the last time they had talked.
“My father had returned from work. After taking the money, I stayed the night beside my mother. In the morning when I was leaving the hospital, my phone rang. It was my uncle. He told me papa had been killed.”
Life at DTC
Ajay wanted to be a postmaster, a job that fascinated him since childhood. “We depended on our father’s money so after his death, I quit studies and started working part-time as a security guard. Later, DTC offered me a job on compassionate grounds,” he said.
When Ajay was asked to select his workplace, the choice was clear. He chose the Rohini Sector 3 depot, where his father reported for work every morning.
At the general office, he helps his colleagues draft papers for contractual employees and prepares RTI replies.
“Everyone knows my father here. My colleagues were his friends. When I am stuck with any paperwork, they help me. They say they see my father in me.”
Satish Kumar, who sits next to Ajay, had joined DTC in 1983, 13 years before he was born, and was friends with his father. Kumar helps Ajay handle paperwork.
“He is a good boy. He is always smiling. He must be missing his father but doesn’t speak about it,” Kumar said.
Kumar and Ajay are now friends and have lunch together.
Family left their ancestral village
In August last year, four months after his father’s death, the family shifted to Sonipat from their ancestral home in Bahadurgarh when Ajay got a job in DTC.
“There was no one to look after his mother Rakesh. Ajay is out the whole day and returns home in the evening. Initially his father and he would look after her. After the incident, they shifted to my house,” Ajay’s uncle Sahab Singh said.
Rakesh is bedridden since 2003 after suffering a hip displacement.
Ajay’s sister Varsha, 18, was studying at SRM University near Sonipat till September last year. After her father’s death, she quit studies.
“After the incident many politicians offered help. Mundka MLA Sukhbir Dalal and Rakhi Birlan promised to fund Varsha’s education and her wedding. I have a copy of their speech. The money never came and their promises vanished like them,” said Singh.
Studying at the depot
Ajay had cancelled the interview with HT the first day. Minutes before the team reached the bus depot, he called, saying he came to know that his history examination was scheduled that day.
“My friend told me I have my history exam today. I have to rush,” Ajay said over the phone.
The next day, he apologised and admitted he did not know about his examination. “I am doing my graduation from the Open School but I hardly get time to study. My friends tell me about the exam dates and help me with study material. I hope to be a graduate so that I am considered for promotion,” he said.
His day starts at 6 in the morning. By 7, he starts from his village in Sonipat and takes a bus for a two-hour ride to his office. “I plan to get my books here and study during exams but I get little time. By the time I reach home it is 8.30-9 pm,” Ajay said.
Piece of advice
Last month, while returning home, his car collided with a car near Swaroop Nagar in North Delhi. It brought back memories of his father and what might have happened that day.
“I stepped out of the car, so did the other person. He quickly apologised. There were dents in both our cars. We told each other that the cars were insured and moved on with our lives,” he said.
Ajay says he knows the price his family had to pay for a few seconds of rage.
A year after the incident, Ajay is a changed man -- more responsible as he likes to describe himself. He has no grudge against the woman and her son who are out on bail.
“The law will punish them someday.”
He has a piece of advice, though. “Yes, my life has changed but so has theirs. I am sure the woman and her son regret what they did. What good did their rage serve?”