How cheerful are you when you meet someone who’s from your hometown? Maybe, you’re an introvert person but that sense of belongingness is always there in your heart and you wish you could talk to that person. Especially, when you’ve been away from your place for many years and you want to know about what’s new in the city!
Something similar happened to me on Sunday when I was returning back to Pune from Mumbai and booked an Uber from S.V. Road to Maitri Park to rent a cab. This journey I will never forget and it may be a turning point in my future aspirations to do something which is not for profit, but for the humanitarian cause.
The journey started with the chauffeur talking to someone on his phone in Hindi, in such a way that I could recognize his hometown pretty well. You gain this experience of knowing one’s roots when you start exploring the world. This was the first time I experienced my own experience. He was talking in a Lakhnawi accent!
Watching a guy talking in a Lakhnawi accent shoots-up all the fireworks in my mind and the stars twinkling in my eyes. So when this guy from Lucknow disconnected the call, I asked him a pretty obvious question, “Aap yahan se nahi ho na?”, and then you get the expected answer which brings a smile on your face, expanding from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat, “Bhaiya ji hum to Lakhnau se hain.”
His name is Ashfaq (the name is changed to safe-keep the identity of the person). Living for past 25 years in Mumbai, he comes from a family of 5, 3 kids and a wife. He helps people of Mumbai travel from one point to another, starting early at 6 in the morning and his day ends at 1 in the night. He only sees his kids and wife wake up on Sunday as he leaves late that day. For all the remaining days, all of them sleep waiting for him. He gets back home at 1, helps himself with some food which his wife cooked for him but slept as she needs to take care of herself to take care of two young ones (the third kid is 12 years old and can handle himself now).
Ashfaq couldn’t go to school because his parents lived their lives in poverty and didn’t have enough assets to feed the family properly. Ashfaq has the zeal to study as he feels that he should be educated to drive a cab. The reason why he wants to be educated to drive a cab is: “Saahab, aap mujhe bologe phone par ki is society ke gate par aa jaao to main aa jaaunga kyunki mujhe poora Mumbai pata hai, par agar aap mujhse pahunchne par poochoge ki kahan khade ho to main aapko nahi bata paaunga, kyunki saahab mujhe padhna nahi aata aur main naam dekh kar nahi bata sakta ki kis dukaan k baahar khada hoon.”
Ashfaq even gets cab booking from foreigners but isn’t able to communicate with them because of illiteracy. He has to search for someone standing nearby, who knows English and can be a translator between both the parties. Ashfaq has been feeling helpless since the day he started earning for his family. Ashfaq says, “Bauji padhna likhna seekh jaaenge hum to sahi galat bhi jaan jaaenge. Hamaara ladka sakool se wapas aata hai to bataata hai ki abba ye galat hai aur ye sahi hai.”
Ashfaq cannot get the permit for driving his cab across Mumbai because the authorities are demanding for his High School Passing Certificate, which unfortunately, Ashfaq doesn’t have. This will lead to corruption as Ashfaq has no other way out of this, except to feed some agent with money to fake his certificate and get him the permit papers. Had he been educated, he wouldn’t have faced this. “Saahab, aaj padhe likhe hote to shaan se dete cettifikat aur page le lete. Ab ghoos khilana padega nahi to cettifikat nahi banega aur rozi ruk jaegi saahab.”
“Sunday ko late nikalta hu saahab, ladke se padh leta hue ek ghante. Samajh mein to nahi aata par dil ko dilaasa milta hai ki beta padhaai kar raha hai. Bank k faaram bharne bhi usko hi saath le kar jaata hu”, said Ashfaq, with a smile on his face, content with the fact that his son will not face the hardship he is facing in his life because of his family’s negligence towards his education.
Had I not reached my destination, this conversation between us wouldn’t have stopped. Irrespective of the fact that we are from different religion, Ashfaq agreed to the fact that half of this country’s issues can be resolved if each and every individual is literate. Quarrels between two sects, groups with different ideology, people of different religion and two people fighting each other cause of a road accident can all be solved if everyone is given proper education.
We need people like Ashfaq who want to become a literate citizen of this country and know the importance of education. We just need to come up with a platform where they can fulfill their dream of being educated and living a respectful life!
Hats off to you, Ashfaq!