Who Do You Think You Are – Ramchandar Yadav, Government Servant
[Interview and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla was walking down the Ring Road, near Bikaji Cama Place, when he approached a man.
Who are you? What are you doing here?
I’m Ramchandar Yadav. I’m waiting for customers. I’m an auto-driver.
An auto walla? Why do you folks always overcharge? Why don’t you people run by the meter?
Some auto wallas are dishonest but some are very good. Where do you have to go? I will not charge you extra.
Since how long are you driving autos?
I came to Delhi in 1987 and bought an auto in ’90. But this is not I wanted to do.
I wanted to be a government servant. I wanted to serve my people…
Serving the people! People want to enter government service to have power. Come on.
Trust me. You know I used to go to this primary school in my village…
Village Mesondah in Kodarma district in Jharkhand. So in this school we had a master… Devnandan master… he was so good in teaching. He had so much passion… he was so honest. He was so earnest in giving us the right values… he cared so much for us… he was so inspiring. I wanted to serve my people the way he would. That’s why I wanted to be a government servant but things could not work out and I had to leave my school…
Poverty. We were so short of money that sometimes it was difficult to arrange for evening meals. We had just a beegha of land in which my farmer father would grow dhaan (rice). Our income was never enough. We were a family of 12… my grandparents, my uncles, my brothers… There was no problem in going to the school till the first standard. I could do with just a slate and a chalk. You know I had come first in my class. But when I was promoted to the second standard, I had to get text books and we didn’t have money. So I had to leave.
And you came to Delhi?
First I went to Calcutta. I was 9-year-old then. I worked in a kothi (bungalow) there for a year. I would wash the dishes, sweep the floor but I hated it. Then a relative called me to Ahmedabad where I again had to work as a house servant. I didn’t like it. In ’87, I arrived in Delhi where I got a job as a mechanic in a garage in Lajpat Nagar. But when I went for a week to my village, the owner hired someone else in my place. On my return, I borrowed money from a few people and purchased an auto.
You like this profession?
I’m 42 and by the time I reach my home in Wazeerabad village, I have no energy to do anything but crash down on the bed. But I have to continue driving. My children are still young…
How many you have?
Sachin is 10, Sujit is 7 and Rohit is 4. They live with their mother in the village. They go to a school.
What do you want them to be?
I leave it to them what they want to be in life. I can only earn money for their school fee. I want them to be educated men.
Portrait of a man as an autowalla
I wanted to be a government servant
Life takes its own course