Today evening, I met Jogen Rao, a rickshaw-puller who transports people in scorching heat of Delhi from morning till the evening in Lajpat Nagar. The man hailing from Bihar earns on an average Rs 300-400 daily. He has three kids — two daughters and a son. The first thing that I asked him when we got talking was “Are your kids studying?” He replied enthusiastically, “Yes ma’am. My eldest daughter is in class 4, younger one in class 2 and son in class 1. The eldest one is a first division holder.” I could feel the pride in his voice. ” Since my wife is not educated, we send her for tuitions for which I pay Rs. 400 a month,” he shared.
“Beta Beti mein koi farak samajhte ho kya? ( do you treat your daughters and son differently)” I asked him. Denying vehemently he said “No ma’am, all my three kids of are equal to me. I love the eldest one the most. She is very sincere. I hope I can educate them all and they stand on their own feet one day and become what they want to.”
Knowing his love for education, I asked Jogen if he was educated. He replied “I couldn’t study much ma’am. My father died early. So I left my studies in class 5 to take care of house expenses. I started working as a labourer. I wanted to study but responsibilities were there. I had three sisters to take care of. One elder and two younger.”
I was curious and asked him if his sisters also did not study. “I made them study. They completed their matric. And then I gave their marriage. In our community, we don’t get married until our sisters are married. So I managed it all. We spent Rs 70,000 on my eldest sister’s marriage.”
“So how much do you make in a month Jogen Bhaiya?” I asked. He said, “Ma’am, Rs 10,000 to 11,000 ban jaata hai. But I send most of it at home. I pay Rs 3,000 as rent of room I stay in. Apart from that I keep little for my food and send the rest home. I try and send them as much money as possible. If my family is happy I am happy. Aur kya chahiye (what else do I want) ”
I don’t do any nasha (alcohol) madam, he declared without me asking anything. “Bohot achcha Jogen Bhaiya” I smiled.
The journey came to an end. He showed me a slip of money he sent home recently. I asked him if he ever feels tired. He said “Yahi Zindagi hai ( this is life) ma’am. If I get tired who will care for the family.”
– Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj