He would see me running out from my building gate every morning and as soon as I jumped into his rickshaw he would say to me, “Aap aaj late ho Gaye?”
I am not exactly sure when or how ithappened but I basically found myself being chauffeured around Ahmedabad by Sakhbir Bhai from the first time I sat in his auto. He would park himself outside my gate half an hour earlier than required. Even after he found out I am almost always late, there was seldom a day he didn’t keep time.
One morning when I was floating around the house, trying to find my shoes, charger, keys, a working pen and a whole load of junk that I would carry to work every day, the intercom rang. In my house we usually wait for each other to pick up ringing phones, answer door bells and switch off extra lights and fans. So I waited for my mom/ sister/ maid/ dad to answer the phone while I continued gathering my things.I heard my mom call out to me.
“Some Sakhbir Bhai is waiting for you”, she said.
I stopped for a minute, trying to remember when I could have possibly given him my block/flat number. Until now we hadn’t even exchanged phone numbers simply because there was no need to. He was always there.
I felt strange of course and began thinking of the worst possible.
Why did he call my house?
How did he know where I live?
Is he a creep? Should I find another rickshaw?
I am sure he’s a weirdo!
But before I could say or ask him anything, he politely asked “Aap aaj late ho Gaye?”
He told me he let four passengers go because he had to take me to my office. Said he would have made a lot of money but he never disappoints his “regular customers”. He also added that if I ever needed a rickshaw he would always be there even if it’s at midnight!
As nice as it may have sounded, I can’t say I felt any better about him because who says things like that? But I decided to let it go. We resumed our usual chats about the weather, his daughter, some cow his neighbor had, the lack of traffic sense in Ahmedabad and his first class knowledge of Ahmedabad city on our morning rickshaw rides from my house to the office regularly.
Soon he made friends with my security guard and would always make him call home to make me hurry or say he’s waiting. My suspicions of his intentions were put to rest shortly but I still don’t understand why he didn’t give up. He wasn’t getting extra money, so much of his time was being wasted and yet he turned up every single day. Same time, same place.
Whether it was to pay my phone bills, deliver product samples to clients, drop me to the station or airport when I was travelling, and be there to pick me up on my way back or entertain my requests to be taken to the few odd heritage sites Ahmedabad has on its outskirts Sakhbir Bhai never failed me.
Days flew by and my project was over. I didn’t have to go to work anymore. I started taking driving lessons. I would call Sakhbir Bhai to drop me to the driving school and back home after I finished the session. He would find passengers in the area, never venturing too far because he wanted to be back by the time my class got over. He was always curious to know how my class went. I used to find it funny because I knew he was worried that his rickshaw would be of no use to me if I could drive myself around.
Soon even the driving classes got over. I knew the time had come to end this weird and wonderful routine. I had to let Sakbhir Bhai go. I explained to him that I didn’t need him anymore because I would be working from home and to run errands I had my sister who can drive (I’m still wobbly on the wheel to drive without getting killed). He was so thankful to me for god alone knows what! I asked if I could take a picture of him for this post. He was very upset that I didn’t give him enough notice to shave and comb his hair.