Do you smoke? This is the standard question 54-year-old Jai Ram asks every passenger who boards his auto. And every time, the question is followed by a word of caution regarding throat cancer.
Jai Ram, himself a victim of throat cancer triggered by intensive smoking, claims his only mission in life now is to spread cancer awareness, especially among youths. “I politely advice them to quit habits that can harm them in the future,” he said.
Apart from word-of-mouth, Jai Ram also carries his awareness drive through text messages.
‘Agar aap acche insaan hai to cigarette, pan masala, tobacco to tatkal tyag de. Cigarette peene se mere gale mein cancer ho gaya hai, aap ko bhi ho sakta hai- Jai Ram’—reads an SMS he circulated recently to some 700 mobile numbers. Jai Ram is the only earning member of a family of five comprising his wife, two sons and a daughter.
He was detected with the disease a year back that turned his entire world around. From being a transporter and president of an association for the welfare of auto-rickshaw drivers, he became an auto-rickshaw driver to meet medical expenses. “I had five auto-rickshaws. Three had to be sold off to meet expenses. Now I drive the rest myself to earn whatever little I can,” said Jai Ram. “Rich people can be cured as they have enough money to get advanced medical treatment abroad. But what about a rickshaw puller, who doesn’t have enough finances? Its only awareness that can prevent a person from falling into the trap of cancer,” he said.
Notably, the awareness mission he started alone eight months ago, now has 25 members. They are industrialists, Kishore Katru, and social activists Sanjeev Malhotra, Brim K Mehta and Raj Mohan Gupta, who are helping him spread his message.