Bombay is truly a city of the finest display of human resilience. Not to imply that people in other cities aren’t resilient, but there’s a palpable sense of the determination of this city to absorb anything destiny throws at it. These, of course, are just statements unless you actually hear them first hand.
On my way for a lunch date to Colaba, I hailed a cab driven by a pleasant looking elderly uncle. Still mildly hungover from the previous night, I rested my head on the seat for a quick shut-eye, until the scent of the sea filled my nostrils and reminded me that I was in the most beautiful part Bombay. Here was a chance to take in the beautiful sights the city has to offer. I opened my eyes and saw the famous Haji Ali (which I am yet to visit). I then remembered to tell my cab uncle specifically that I needed to go to the lane behind Leopold.
The cabbie sighed deeply and said reminiscently – ‘Aapne toh Leopold ka naam leke puraani yaadein tazaa kar di’ (You refreshed old memories by mentioning Leopold) . When I asked him what he meant by that, he said he was reminded about the terrorist attack. At first, I thought he was talking about the 26/11 terrorist attacks in 2008 in general; But he went on to tell me that he was around Leopold when the gunmen came and shot bullets at the restaurant. He was standing next to his cab when the shootout happened and one of the bullets pierced his calf and he instantly collapsed. A kind soul put him into a taxi and sent him to the hospital, where he regained consciousness after 6 hours. When the doctor told him he could leave, he realised he wouldn’t be able to walk let alone drive his cab. He called his oldest son and asked him to pick him up. He was rendered helpless for at least two months after the incident and couldn’t drive his taxi , which was pretty much his sole income source. When the news of Ajmal Kasab’s hanging came, he distributed sweets in his neighbourhood. It was a moment of joy for him because the ‘haraamkhor’ (bastard) who epitomises this horiffic incident in his life, was brought to justice!
Already deeply moved by his story, I asked him about his family. He had moved from UP to Bombay over 25 years back. When he reached Bombay, he fell in love with a girl and jokingly said since then, I’ve become a ‘Joru ka Ghulaam’ (hen-pecked husband) ! 🙂 His little world also includes his two sons and two daughters , out of which one daughter is married and his younger daughter isn’t. He said the Quraan says Betiyaan toh Allah ki Reham hai (Daughters are blessings from Allah). “My daughters are the light of my life. Even if I get home by 3am, my younger daughter will wake up to serve me hot food” , he said with a smile on his face. She is ‘fashionable’ he told me. The 24-year old has declared that she won’t get married until she finds the one! I have kept 4 lakhs aside for her wedding. His sons, on the other hand (or haraamkhors as he called them 🙂 ) are up to no good in life. When asked to start earning a living , they tell their mother that when our father is earning , why should we bother!?! He has invested in getting all his children educated , especially his daughters. I told him I wish there were more people in our country who thought like you and realised the value of their daughters!
He went on to say – I only have a few more years of hard work till I continue driving my cab. I have already set aside 28 lakhs for me and my wife for when I retire with which I will also go to Hajj.
I was a little sad when I finally reached my destination. I wished I could spend more time to get a little more insight into his life and thoughts. All the while I was just absorbing what he was telling me during our conversation, I never really got a chance to ask his name. But I am glad the Universe gave me the opportunity to meet this cheerful, sweet and noble soul. As I stepped out of the cab, I told him it was really nice to meet him. He reciprocated the feelings and blessed me with happiness for my life. The sincerity and warth of those blessings truly touched my heart!