Interaction with an enlightened Autorickshaw driver, Fakhruddin Iliyas!

Enlightened Autorikshaw driver, Fakhruddin Ilyas Mohammad

Enlightened Autorikshaw driver, Fakhruddin Ilyas Mohammad

Feb 12, 2012: It has been a wonderful day at Bangalore. The daylong BBC (b-school boot camp) engagement with brilliant youngsters who are keen to excel in life and also the hour-long stirring session with the IIM call-getters in the evening energized me immensely.

The intensity of the 10 hours of action, that transports youngsters to the world of self-belief is what I really enjoy, day after day.  When they walk out, each one has glint in his eyes, spring in his gait and the confidence in his voice. The day is worth all the effort. It is a way of self-actualization for me.

I had not bargained for a greater surprise that was yet to come at the fag-end of the day. The interaction with Sheikh Fakhruddin Iliyas Mohammad, the entrepreneurial auto rickshaw driver, was an eye-opener.  I am recalling the interaction to the best of my abilities –

As the auto starts to move after I boarded,

Sfi – sir u speak a very good Hindi, you don’t seem to be from here.

Rs – Though my roots are from Kerala, spent my childhood in Hyderabad.

Sufi – acha, Hyderabad people speak good Urdu

Rs – I am not sure about every one, but my Hindi has been honed in north as I have been based there since 1983

Sfi – main wahi samjha, you must be from north. Main Saath saal muscat, Oman mein tha and I realized that your Hindi is very sophisticated, like so many who were in muscat, that had come from Delhi

rs – main bhi yeh sonchoon ki aapki Hindi itni bhadiya kaise? I too was wondering how your Hindi is so good?

Sfi –  hahahaha

Rs. How was your stay in Oman? People who go to gulf usually do not come back

Sfi – I learnt a lot about myself and the world there. What makes one succeed in life. It really changed my life. But, I did not like my stay there at all. It is inhuman

Rs. That is the reason I asked. I spent a few years running business in gulf. I did research about the labour who go from here and their challenges. I have written articles on the issue

sfi – zindagi wahan bather hai! Log yahan se kya sochke jaate hain, wahan jake kya banta  hai.. Idar zameen  bech  ke jata hai aadmi. Puri family, gaon aatha hai, mala pehnatein  hain, airport main Bharaat ke Saath chodte hain. (life is very bad there. People go there thinking what not, and what he becomes there.. He sells land and home, takes loans..entire family and village comes in a celebration mood, the person in garlands…)

Unko lagta hai ki iske gulf Jaane se saari family ki sudhaar hone walihai.  Woh gulf mein sheikh ki tarah rahnewala hai, aur bahut paise bananewala hai. Wey nahin jantehain ki usey Bali ka bakra banadiya hai…
(they all are thinking that his going to gulf is going to transform the family. He is going to be there like an oil sheikh, making a lot of money. They never realize that he is being garlanded and sent to the gallows)

The middlemen are making fool of every one. They Plant stories about prosperity and push families to part with everything to send a member to gulf.

I would not advise even my enemy to go to gulf. The life is very harsh and you get paid peanuts. The cost of living is too high.  You never manage to save anything. I started a mechanics shop with an arabi as my sponsor, the business is given in his name. I work hard to earn my livelihood, while the arab takes away the cream. It took me seven years to trying to come out of my debt and I made sure i came back the moment the king announced amnesty to all visa violators. People told me that this is a great opportunity to exit the country

Ladies who go there as housemaids, I only know what they go through. The Arabi leaves them with no chance, with his  retinue of mistresses and slaves. One maid came to me asking me to rescue. I ran away from there. You cannot afford to be at the receiving end off these arabis.

Rs – Indians live in inhuman conditions, with over a dozen people crammed in a small room. Their belongings can be seen on the attic outside the balconies, as there is no room inside. Most of the non-construction workers, who do not work in an organised business,  are illegally living, trying all the time to avoid the law. In the process, they are royally taken for a ride.

SFi – I can vividly recall every day, as if it happened yesterday, though it has been almost ten years since I came back. Though I am riding an auto ever since I came back, I feel like a king here. I work whenever I want, relax whenever I want. I am my own boss.

In my last 10 years of riding auto, I have not come across a person like you. You have been giving me so much respect and talking, valuing my story and taking so much interest in them. I like your way. Most people who get in, avoid talking even when you are very courteous. They do not treat us like human beings.

Rs – the most important thing in life is to be a good human being. That is the basic necessity. If you are good, everything else gets taken care of.

SFI – you are so right. Have you ever been to a government hospital? You should if you have not.

Rs – yes, I have been to many a times. I feel what you want to say..

SFI –
I took a family elder who was not keeping well and got her admitted. I had stayed there for a couple of days. Rich and poor, all are praying for the well being of their family members. No distinction. In fact in the corridor, the rich who might have never bothered about us, keep coming asking me to pray for their well being. Everyone becomes naked when he goes back to god. Nothing matters. Only your deeds remain.

Have you ever been to a shamshaanghaat (burial ground)? That is the place that you get the greatest peace.

Rs – yes. Nothing else goes with you on your last journey. People just recall all your good deeds.

Sfi – people are worse than animals, most of the times. I recall an ad where they showed people interactions and then superimposed a dog, pig, donkey etc based on the way they were talking. It was very apt. I used to think how people become animals before becoming humans.

All faiths tell the same thing – truth, honesty and being humane are the basic qualities to have. We all read and pray from all holy books, but never follow the tenets.

Rs – the way you speak, you should write a book. You can narrate you story. It will be a fascinating one. You can do it on the Internet too. You will be an inspiration for many who are in the gulf and also to those who came back. They all will add their experiences.

SFI – I have been thinking about it. After talking to you , I am very motivated. I will do it and send you the story.  Kindly give me your visiting card.

I will check your website, you must be having one.

Rs – here is the card. Here is my website on the card. Kindly have a look and write your story. It has been a pleasure interacting with you. Loved the wonderful time. Thanks.

Sfi – thanks sir. You have been a wonderful person to talk to.

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