A Mumbai auto driver, Mr Desraj, has been receiving showers of praises and assistance from strangers after a profile of his, done by the Humans of Bombay, went viral. According to the profile, Desraj is the sole breadwinner of his family since the deaths of his two sons, and plies autorickshaw every day to make ends meet and support his wife, daughter-in-law, and his four grandchildren. A media report also claims that he has sold off his house to educate his granddaughter so that she can become a teacher.
Six years ago, he lost his eldest son to an accident and his body was not discovered for almost a week. Desraj, however, did not even get time to grieve as the financial burden on him doubled up overnight.
So, the next day, he went out to work. While he struggled to support his deceased son’s family, fate dealt him another hard blow. His younger son died by suicide. In the profile by Humans of Bombay, Desraj said, “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? (I have lit the funeral pyres of two sons. For a father, there cannot be a worse situation than this).”
However, Desraj struggled on to keep his four grandchildren’s education going, and making sure the family had food to eat. In an NDTV interview, Desraj said, “On most days, we’d barely have anything to eat.” However, after the two tragic deaths in the family and the constant struggles, Desraj saw a glimmer of happiness when his granddaughter scored 80 per cent in her class twelve board exams. He was so ecstatic that he gave free rides to strangers on his auto, just to celebrate her success.
After passing the twelfth standard, when his granddaughter expressed the desire to travel to Delhi to do a B.Ed, Desraj didn’t deter her ambition, despite not having any financial capacity to facilitate her higher education. In order to pay for his granddaughter’s education, he sold off his Mumbai home and sent his family to live with his relatives in their village.
His granddaughter is currently doing her B.Ed course, and he cannot wait for her to become a teacher. In the interview to NDTV, Desraj said, “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.”
In the meantime, he is still plying customers from Khar Danda Naka, and eating and sleeping in auto number 160 every day. Apart from an outpour of social media comments, Congress’s Archana Dalmia and former Union Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology and Shipping Milind Deora have also addressed Desraj’s plight.