I’m staying in a quite rough area in New Delhi. Don’t take me wrong, it’s not that I am scared or feel unsafe, but it is rough. Good thing is that the hostel is extremely cheap and I’ve found the Madan Cafe which has become my second home. The owner is nice, the food is amazing and I’ve met a lot of co-travelers with whom I’ve had interesting conversations. But above all, sitting looking out at the street is like watching a movie. People, dogs, cats, rickshaws, tuctucs, carriages, motorcycles. Everything and the constant honking. Observing life happening on the street.
Couple of days ago I needed to go to the bank so I took a tuctuc, told the driver my destination and we took off. He was very kind and helpful, a very calm young man. Yesterday I met him just outside the hostel on my way to buy chai. I bought two chai and offered him one of them. And we talked.
His name is Vicky, he is 26 years old and he is from a small village up north. He would have to change bus 4 times, and the last part there is no public transportation, to get there. He hasn’t been back home for 6 months now. Making a living is hard. Until 2 months ago he used to work as a shoe polisher. That corner over there, he points across the street, that used to be my spot he says.
He has moved forward in life, he drives the tuctuc now. Renting it from the owner, whos name also i Vicky, he pays 400 rupees a day. But he tries to stay close to this area he says. It’s because he doesn’t have a drivers license. A bit problematic if the police stops him. Then he would have to pay a fine reducing his savings. Some policemen are nice he says, they understand how difficult it is to make a living so the only charge him a small amount which they put in their own pocket. But if they decide to write a report he would be in big trouble.
His english is very good, I complement him. He thanks me and tells me that he has never gone to school, he can’t read or write in any language. Which makes it even harder for him to get a drivers license.
Home to him is the tuctuc. He sleeps in it, he works in it. But he can not afford ty buy one. It would cost around 4 lak. That is 400 000 rupees, roughly 6500 USD.
Today when I was on my way to have chai I met him again outside my hostel. So I buy us chai and we talk. He has new clothes on he says. He bought them for the brother and sister festival the other day. Also because he needed to wash the ones he’s wearing when driving the tuctuc. That’s the only clothes he had until a tourist gave him some money to buy new. So that’s what he’s doing now, washing his clothes. That plastic container filled with water, the clothes soaking for a while, giving them a proper rub and then hangs them on the fence opposite the street. Knowing they will still be there at 8.30 pm after doing more than 12 hours in the streets of New Delhi. He’s not the only one in this situation here and they all look after each other.
So he will probably continue living his life in that rented tuctuc for a long time. A he is yet quite fortunate when I look at how others make their living.
It is hard to see him and listen to his story without feeling guilt, wanting to help. He may lack a lot of things, but one thing he has is my respect. I’m guessing that the money he makes he doesn’t keep. He’s probably feeding the rest of his family back home in that tiny village. He struggles driving that tuctuc and he does it with dignity.