Help has been pouring in for an auto rickshaw driver in Mumbai whose heart-wrenching story was shared by 'Humans of Bombay' yesterday. In his interview with 'Humans of Bombay', Mr Desraj revealed that after losing both his sons, it was the responsibility of providing for his grandchildren and daughters-in-law that gave him the strength to keep going.
"Six years ago, my oldest son disappeared from home; he left for work as usual but never returned," said Mr Desraj, who plies his auto near Khar in Mumbai.
His son's body was found a week later. He had died at the age of 40, but his elderly father did not even get the time to mourn him. "A part of me died with him, but burdened by responsibilities, I didn't even have the time to mourn - the next day, I was back on the road, driving my auto," said Mr Desraj.
Two years later, he lost his other son to suicide.
"It was the responsibility of my daughter-in-law and their four children that kept me going," says Mr Desraj.
When his granddaughter, then in Class 9, asked if she would have to quit school, Mr Desraj assured her that she would be able to study as much as she wanted.
To earn for the family, he started working longer hours - leaving home at 6 AM and driving his auto till midnight to earn around Rs 10,000 a month. Of this amount, Rs 6,000 went into paying for the education of his grandchildren, leaving Rs 4,000 to feed a family of seven.
"On most days, we'd barely have anything to eat," says Mr Desraj.
However, he says, everything was worth it when his granddaughter scored 80 per cent in her Class 12 Board Exams. The whole day, he gave free rides to customers to celebrate her achievement.
But when his granddaughter said that she wanted to travel to Delhi for a B.Ed course, Mr Desraj knew he wouldn't be able to afford it.
"But I had to fulfill her dreams... at any cost. So, I sold our house and paid her fee," he says.
Mr Desraj's wife, daughters-in-law and other grandchildren were sent to a relative's home in their village, while he continues to drive his auto in Mumbai.
"It's been a year now and honestly, life's not bad-I eat and sleep in my auto and during the day, I ferry my passengers," he says.
Evidently a proud grandfather, he concluded his interview by saying that all his pains vanish when his granddaughter calls him to say that she stood first in her class.
"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," says Mr Desraj - who has promised to give free rides to all his customers when the day comes.
Mr Desraj and his story has touched hearts on social media, where several people have offered to help him.
"Have a lump in my throat as I read this!! Such remarkable devotion and responsibility towards his family at his age, and such overwhelming generosity in offering free rides despite his economic condition," wrote one person in the comments section.
" I would love to donate to help him financially," another said.
A Facebook user named Gunjan Ratti started a fundraiser for Mr Desraj, which has raised more than Rs 5.3 lakh from 276 donors.
Desraj is a Auto driver on streets of Mumbai! His 2 sons hv died in accident & suicide. He drives frm 6am in th morn to 10 pm to earn Rs10000 /month. You cn find him at Khar Danda naka, Auto no 160. His no is 08657681857. We need to reach out to help. RT pl & Mumbaikars pl help. pic.twitter.com/5zAm9TtgT5— Archana Dalmia (@ArchanaDalmia) February 11, 2021
The story was also posted on Twitter by the Congress's Archana Dalmia and retweeted by Milind Deora. Ms Dalmia shared the auto driver's phone number and appealed to Mumbaikars to help him.Click for more trending news