It is not every day that one runs into a Mohammed Rafi. But I happened to run into one around 7.30 PM last Friday after work and here is what that transpired…
Me: Sanjay Gandhi Hospital?
Rafi: (with a smile) get in…
Me: (Looked at the ID, the first thing that I do after getting inside any auto is look at the ID for the name and address of the driver) Your name is Mohammed Rafi?
Rafi: Yes Sir. He was my parents’ favorite singer and so I became a way for them to remember him.
Me: Do you sing too?
Rafi: No Sir, I can’t, tried though for a while before giving up… (After a few mins of silence) Are you from here?
Me: No, I am from Chennai.
Rafi: How are you able to converse well in Hindi then? (This is something that I am repeatedly asked!!) The south Indian language scripts look like they are constructed from jalebis…all these letters…!!
Me: (couldn’t resist a laugh) Yes, strangely my father has exactly the same opinion but only Telugu and Kannada scripts are like that, in fact both share the script. Where are you from?
Rafi: I was in Kuwait Sir…for a year
Me: Then, why did you come here? Did not like it there?
Rafi: No Sir, I couldn’t get used to the water there at all. I had never visited a doctor in my life until I landed in Kuwait. I got Jaundice followed by Malaria…so decided to return…
Me: Oh! That’s bad. What do your parents do?
Rafi: My father passed away when I was so young I don’t even remember his face. My mother died a year back due to cancer. She had kidney problems, but cancer got her life… (Goes silent)
Me: (feeling sorry) hmm…
Rafi: (after a few mins regains his jolly manner) Sir, why don’t you get a bike to commute?
Me: I don’t fancy bikes much. I have got a cycle. Generally use it to commute, today is an exception…
Rafi: Cycle? Where do you work?
Me: I work for Robert Bosch. Heard of it?
Rafi: No Sir…Is it a club?
Me: (Wondering what made him think that!) It isn’t. It is right opposite forum…
Rafi: OK. If I can ask, what is your salary? 25k??
Me: Yes, around that.
Rafi: Sir, you get so much and commute by cycle! I know people who get 10-12 K only but won’t settle for anything less than a bike once they start earning.
Me: Hmm…How does it matter how one commutes to office?
Rafi: You are right Sir. I wouldn’t forget this statement of yours ever!!
Me: Haha..! So how did you land up here?
Rafi: I was in Bombay sir before I went to Kuwait. Then, I came here, it’s been only six months now. This is the native for my mother’s side. She lived all her life here before she got married and moved to Bombay.
Me: Hmm…liking it here?
Rafi: It is OK sir. Life moves on for me…
Me: (ruing the fact that I had to alight then) Thanks Rafi. Hope we meet again…
Rafi: (Returning the 2 rupee change to me, which auto drivers don’t normally unless we demand) Thank you Sir.
This is one conversation that I relished and would remember for some time. Here is a Mohammed Rafi plying an auto in Bangalore, living alone in an alien city and yet managing to greet a customer with a warm smile. That says something about the human spirit and its resilience in the face of extreme hardship. Something to remember when we run into hard times in the future…