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I’ve studied till class five.

Ab aap din bhar kheti mai kaam krengi, thak jaengi toh padhengi kya?
[Now for an entire day if you were working in the field, later being tired, would you study?]

I was 14-15 years old when I ran away from my house without telling anyone, neither, mother father, nor anyone else at home.
The first job I did was of washing glasses at a hotel in Surat. I didn’t know anybody there. I didn’t know the place either.

Kuch bhi maloom nahi tha. Bas aise hi bhaag gaye.
[Didn’t know anything, just ran with nothing in mind]

I left with only Rs 40 in my pocket at that time. I used to be paid Rs 10 for work of 12 hours-

subah 8 baje lgta tha, raat ko 8 baje chooth ta tha, lekin usme bhi do mahine ka 200 rupaya bach jata tha mila kar.
Rehne ke liye jaise ye hotel hai, iske band ho jane par , uske chajje ke neeche so jata tha.


Radhe Shyam Mithulal Verma of Faizabad (Photograph with permission)

[I would start at 8 am and work till 8 pm. But still, I would save about Rs 200 for two months.
At night, I would sleep under the roof of the hotel once it was closed for the day.]
After leaving my house, I was in Surat for eight long months. I had already sent Rs 3000 to my parents by then. When I finally went to see them, my grandfather began to cry. After all, I had gone home after gaining so much weight. Grandfather said that it was good that I ran away in time- otherwise I would have been stuck with ploughing in the fields.

When I was about to come back, he started crying again.

Toh mai jab wapis aane lga toh unke pair chue toh bole beta tu mat ja pardes, tujhe jo chahiye mai yahan khreed kar dunga. Teri choice poori krunga- apni property tere naam likh deta hun abhi- mai bola nahi baba, humko nai chahiye. Kyuki tumhare teen bête hain, humko de doge toh teeno bête beekar ho jaenge humko nai chahiye, hum apna kama kha rhe hain.

[When I was about to leave, I bent to touch his feet. He asked me to not go anywhere – I would fulfil your every choice, whatever you need, I’ll purchase that, I’ll write your name on my property. I said no. I don’t need any of it. You have three sons; if you give all of it to me then all three will become a waste. I am earning from my own work]

In 1980 I ran from Surat as well.

I then reached Bombay.

In Bombay, I started doing shuttering work for a building that was being constructed. I would get Rs13 for 12 hours of work everyday. I did this for 2 consecutive years.

After 2 years a close friend of mine suggested that I should change my work. “Bole, aray Verma, kya yahan magachmaari kr rha hai- auto chla le” [Said, Verma, why are you beating your head working here? Start driving autorickshaw.]

He taught me how to drive a rickshaw on his own auto , helped me in making my license and he himself paid Rs 500 to get my license plate done.

I’ve been driving rickshaw since 1986.

In 1988, I just had Rs 1000 to myself.

Sirf ek hazar rupay matra the jab 22,000 ka ghar mil raha tha. Humne bhi 22000 ka room le lia- paisa nai hai, sirf 1000 hain jeb mai par sauda pkka kr lia-.

Jise bolte hain beekh mangna , mai waise waise bheekh manga baaki paison ke liye- kisi se panch sau, kisi se hazar, kisi se do hazar, esa kar karke room khareed liya.

[I just had Rs 1000 in my pocket when I was getting a room for Rs 22,000. I too purchased the room – I didn’t have enough money, just had Rs 1000 in my pocket, but sealed the deal.

For what is defined begging, I did that – arranged for money by borrowing from everyone- from someone Rs 500, from someone Rs 1000, from some Rs 2000. I then purchased the room]

But I can swear on this and say that I’ve never ever taken rent from anyone who came to stay in my room. Now I stay with my family, but even when I was a bachelor, no one had to take permission to come to my place. Aray Bhai, aao yaar, khana banao, khao, pade raho. Khud dekha hun sab, isiliye. Aray us room mai itne aadmi ho gye te- 10-12 aadmi ho gye te.. humko koi kaam nai krna tha ,sb saara kaam kr the the.

[Brother, come, cook food, eat leisurely, and rest. I’ve seen the difficulty, perhaps, that’s why. About 10-12 people lived in the room- I had to do no household work, everybody would do ]
Ye sb log mere gaon se the- jb mummy papa ko pta chla, bhai behen log ko pata chala ki bhaiya ghar khreed liye toh soche ki bahut bada ghar khreeda hoga lekin jab aye, dekhen to bolen , saala itne mai to meri ek bhains nahi rehti hai, aur tu isme itna paisa de diya?

[All these people were from my village. When my parents came to know, when my brother sisters came to know that brother has purchased a house in Bombay, they thought that it would be a huge place. But when they saw, the were perplexed at its size, said, in this much space they don’t even prefer to keep their buffalo and I’ve paid so much for it?]


Radhe Shyam Mithulal Verma of Faizabad (Photograph with permission)

After ten years, I purchased my own rickshaw and started driving it.

Bhot kasht uthaye- lekin aj malik ki dua se mere paas 3 ghar hain, khud ka gaadi hai, biwi hain bacche hain, nati hai pota hai.
[I’ve seen a lot in life- but now with God’s grace, I have three houses, a rickshaw, wife, kids, and grandchildren]

I also own a huge plot of land on Mira Road, don’t have the capacity to build anything for now. I’ve decided that the day I leave driving rickshaw, I’ll either ask my son if he wants to build anything or else will sell it and name everything on my wife –we would live happily.

My son is in our village; he’s looking after our fields there.

Usne koi kaam nahi kia- usko padhayi ke liye bheja tha- ek do baar maara peeta, apni mummy se bol diya ki papa ko bol do ki maare na , maarenge toh bhi nahi padhunga, nahi marenge toh bhi nahi padhunga- maane ki pdhayi nahi krunga.

Aathvi mai fail ho gya aur fir chhodh dia. Hum bhi bol diye ki theek hai bhai- nai marunga. Jab marunga toh bhi nahi padhoge toh fir kya.

[My son didn’t do any work here- we had sent him for studying in school- once or twice I’ve beaten him, he told his mother that she should tell me that if I beat him, he won’t study and even if I don’t beat him, he won’t study. He failed in eighth class- then I left it. I also accepted that even if I beat him he won’t study then there isn’t any need.]

I have a daughter; she’s happily married in our village.

Kheeti baadi hai use gaon mai- tractor hai, Mahindra jeep hai, motorcycle hai..
[Fields are there in her village- there is a tractor, a Mahindra jeep, one motorcycle]

Hmare yahan ldka bola bapu ab rishteydaari mai jane ke liye hmko cycle chlana bhaari pdta hai, gaadi le dio- hum le liye motorcycle- kya bolte hain usko- bike?- nai bike ka bhi koi naam hai.. hum bole beta choice kr lo, jo tere ko chahiye wo le deta hun. Rs 65000 ka aya- le lia.

[My son said that to meet the relatives, travelling on a rickshaw doesn’t suit, buy a vehicle- I bought him a motorcycle- what do we call it?- Bike? – No, that bike too has a name. I said, son, you choose, I’ll buy you that. Bought it for Rs 65000]

He’s doing good work in village- his family is eating properly, what else do I need?

1975 se mai paise ke upar hi chal rha hun- jeb khaaali nai hui meri aj tak- bhale 100 rupaya, 50 rupaya, 10 rupaya hi kyu na ho par tha zarur.

 Biwi bhi bolti hai ki itna property bna diye ho ki beti aur bahu ka sahara nahi lena pdega- unko garaj hogi to khud ayengi hmara sahara lene.

[I’ve been on my own money since 1975 – till now there hasn’t been a day when my pocket has been empty- it might just have Rs 100, Rs 50 or even 10 rupees, but it definitely had.
My wife says that we’ve made enough property that we don’t have to depend on our daughter-in-law or daughter. If they need us, they can come and seek shelter]

She is right now admitted in a hospital. Her leg has broken; she’s lying on the hospital bed.

I just left the hospital and started the rickshaw, after a couple of rides I’ll go to the hospital again. After that, I will go home after 10 pm, will cook my food, then eat and I’ll sleep.

Phir pta hai kitne bje suba uthna pdega subah? Seedha 5 bje- agar dus minute bhi upar ho gya to mere ladke ka ladka yahan rkha hun- pdha rha hun- usko school nai bhej skta.

[Do you know at what time I have to get up tomorrow morning? At exact 5’o’ clock- even if I get ten minutes late, my son’s son, who’s here with me- he’s studying here- I wouldn’t be able to send him to school]

He’s in the fourth standard and I’ve put him in an English Medium School.

Hum parson use bole ki beta ek kaam kro tm mummy papa ko bula lo yah ape, dadi mai jate hain gaon. Toh bola nahi baba jahan aap rahenge mai wahin rahunga- wo jane ko razi nahi.

Abhi ghar jaunga toh gala lapat kr chipak jaega.

[Day before, I told him that he should call his parents here and his grandmother and I will leave for our village. He immediately said no, said he’ll stay wherever I will be.

Now as I reach home, he’ll hug me so tight]