“6 years ago, my oldest son disappeared from home; he left for work as usual but never returned”

“6 years ago, my oldest son disappeared from home; he left for work as usual but never returned. A week later, people found his dead body in an auto; he was just 40. A part of me died with him, but burdened by responsibilities, I didn’t even have the time to mourn–the next day, I was back on the road, driving my auto. But 2 years later, sorrow struck us again–I lost my other son too. While driving, I got a call–‘Your son’s body has been found on platform number 4…suicide kar liya hai usne.’ Do beto ki chitaon ko aag diya hain maine, isse buri baat ek baap ke liye kya ho sakti hai? It was the responsibility of my daughter-in-law and their 4 children that kept me going. After the cremation, my granddaughter, who was in class 9, asked me, ‘Dadaji, will I have to quit school?’ I gathered all my courage and reassured her, ‘Never! You study as much as you want.’

I started working long hours–I’d leave home at 6 AM and drive my auto till midnight. Only then, would I be able to make 10,000 Rs a month. After spending 6000 on their school fees and stationery, I’d be left with barely 4000 to feed my family of 7. On most days, we’d barely have anything to eat. Once, when my wife fell sick, I had to run door to door begging for money to buy her medicines. But everything seemed worth it when last year, my granddaughter told me that she’d scored 80% in her 12th boards–I was on cloud nine! The whole day, I gave a free ride to all my customers! She said to me, ‘Dadaji, I want to do a B.Ed course in Delhi.’ Educating her in another city was way beyond my capacity, but I had to fulfill her dreams… at any cost. So, I sold our house and paid her fees. Then, I sent my wife, daughter-in-law and other grandkids to our relatives’ home in our village, while I continued staying in Mumbai without a roof.

It’s been a year now and honestly, life’s not bad–I eat and sleep in my auto and during the day, I ferry my passengers. Bas baithe baithe kabhi pair me dard ho jaata hai, but then my granddaughter calls and tells me, ‘I came first in my class,’ and all my pain vanishes. I can’t wait for her to become a teacher, so that I can hug her and say, ‘You’ve made me so proud.’ She’s going to be the first graduate in our family–main toh poore hafte sakbo free ride dunga!

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