Delhiwale: Back to dreaming

An auto rickshaw driver gets back on track after the virus-triggered disruption
At this very moment, while talking, the masked Raju is driving a customer to Sector 6— but he rushes to assure that he is chatting through his mobile’s earphones, and that his hands are safely placed on the auto’s steering handle.(MA Soofi)
At this very moment, while talking, the masked Raju is driving a customer to Sector 6— but he rushes to assure that he is chatting through his mobile’s earphones, and that his hands are safely placed on the auto’s steering handle.(MA Soofi)
Updated on Sep 01, 2020 07:24 AM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByMayank Austen Soofi

As the worries for everyday struggles seem to recede for him, autorickshaw driver Raju has started to think again of a dream he had before the coronavirus shook his world. “My ambition is to have a small plot of land in Gurgaon, and build a house on it.”

Indeed, life and its aspirations must go on, and Raju, 24, is back to riding his autorickshaw from 8am to 10pm.

“I started driving again not long after the lifting of the (coronavirus-triggered) lockdown, but for some weeks I wouldn’t spend the whole day on the road,” he says, chatting on phone. Initially, Raju explains, he wouldn’t get many customers—“Most people were still scared to get out of their houses.” He thus didn’t see the point of staying out for too long, and would mostly remain at the one-room rented dwelling he shares with his wife and three little kids in Gurugram’s Gandhi Nagar.

At this very moment, while talking, the masked Raju is driving a customer to Sector 6— but he rushes to assure that he is chatting through his mobile’s earphones, and that his hands are safely placed on the auto’s steering handle.

“Now I get more customers... so I’m working the regular hours,” he says, his voice being one among a host of highway sounds, including the horn he is frequently blowing through the traffic.

Feeling secured enough in reclaiming the old routines of his working life, the auto driver is freely talking of his long-time dream. He calculates that it would take him about 3 lakh to buy just the land. The realisation of having his own house is essential for him because “I have never had a true home. My parents died when I was very young… my chacha-chachi (uncle and aunt) are the ones who raised me.”

Actually, some weeks ago, Raju even slipped out of the metropolis for a 10-day solo trip to his Dwas Pipra village in Katihar, Bihar, to visit the elderly couple: “I had to go check on chacha-chachi. I am what I am because of them.”

But he is also a self-made man. Raju arrived in Gurugram years ago as a “baledar”, a labourer. “Buying an auto last year, on loan, raised me to a higher level, until all the gains were destroyed by the coronavirus... I still have to pay back my loan instalments for the auto.”

Despite certain improvements in the income, things are not the same as in the pre-corona days. “Back then, I would be earning about 10,000 every month,” he says, adding that the figure has now been cut in half.

And yet, daily living today is superior to what it was during the lockdown and the weeks that followed. “We were having only aloo or dal-chawal for food, but now we are also having hari subzi (green vegetables), that were difficult for us to afford in those days.”

The normal life is back, he concludes, and his earnings shall consequently rise again. “My kids will eat better, they will continue with their school, and my wife and I will again start to save money so we can buy land, maybe somewhere just outside Gurgaon.”

By now, he has already dropped the aforementioned customer and is waiting for another one.

“I recently studied the rate of my earnings and the price of land these days, and have determined that if something like coronavirus doesn’t happen again, it will take me three years to have my dream of getting a house come true.”

He now takes off his mask—there’s no other person in the auto—and flashes a smile.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Punjab panchayats minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal made the announcement after meeting representatives of 23 farmers’ bodies on Monday. (HT File Photo)

    Punjab: Squatters get time till June 30 to voluntarily leave panchayat land

    The Punjab government has given illegal occupiers time till June 30 to voluntarily relinquish possession of panchayat land, after which action will be initiated to evict them. Rural development and panchayats minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal announced this after meeting representatives of 23 farmers' bodies here on Monday. “The Punjab government is removing illegal occupants from panchayat lands after completing the legal process,” he said, while clarifying that no house will be demolished.

  • Uttar Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel addresses a joint session of both Houses of the state during the Budget session of UP Assembly, at Vidhan Bhawan in Lucknow, Monday. (PTI Photo)

    4.5 lakh govt jobs provided to youth in UP in 5 years: Guv

    LUCKNOW Governor Anandiben Patel on Monday stated that 1.61 crore youth had been provided employment in the private sector through private investment while 60 lakh youth were linked to self-employment in Uttar Pradesh. “In the last five years, 4.5 lakh government jobs have been provided to the youth in UP by adopting a fair and transparent recruitment process,” she stated in her address to the joint sitting of both the houses of state legislature.

  • Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath arrives to attend the first session of the 18th UP Assembly, at Vidhan Bhawan, in Lucknow on Monday. (ANI Photo)

    Govt ready for debate on any issue, says UP CM

    LUCKNOW Chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday said his government was ready for a debate and reply on any issues related to development, the poor, farmers, youths and women, in the state assembly. Adityanath said he hoped that the members would get some guidance from the governor's address to the two houses of state legislature and the debate over his government's achievements and its future plans.

  • Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu comes out after his medical examination at Rajindra Hospital in Patiala Monday. (PTI)

    Medical board examines Sidhu, recommends special diet in jail

    Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is currently lodged in the Patiala central jail in a 1988 road rage case, was taken to Rajindra Hospital in the city on Monday for medical examination after his counsel moved an application demanding special diet for him. According to sources at Rajindra Hospital, Sidhu has been recommended a high-fibre and low-fat diet, which includes fruits, and boiled vegetables.

  • Commuters to get free rides on e-buses for 3 days from May 24.

    Delhiites can enjoy free electric bus rides for three days, says Kejriwal govt

    Delhiites will get free rides for three days on 150 electric buses that will be flagged off by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday. "Happy & free travel for 3 days from Delhi Govt's end to Delhiites in the "150 electric buses" to be flagged off tomorrow, 24/5/2022 by honourable chief minister," read a tweet from the official handle of the city government. Individuals are also applying for e-charging points.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, May 23, 2022