Hi! I’m Dev Maru. I am 36 years old and this incident happened when I was around 7 or 8. I am from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, a communally volatile city. I used to live with my maama & maami (Uncle & Aunt) then since my dad had a transferrable job as a news reader at Akashwani. I had morning shifts in school (Nelson’s English School Khanpur, Ahmedabad), which was at a distance of around 5 kilometers from my place. For a school starting at 7:30 in the morning, my school rickshaw used to pick me up at around 6:15 am every day. The route was so twisted that I used to be the last kid to be dropped home after school. I forgot to mention that my rickshaw driver was a Muslim. I was too young to know anything beyond that.
On one particular day, everything went on as usual. After school, we were on our way back home making merry in the rickshaw. There was a sense of urgency in the behavior of our rickshaw driver. He was tensed. (Which we, as kids then, obviously did not notice). He dropped everyone home except me. He took a different route, unknown to me. It was much later than the time I usually got home. He finally parked his rickshaw in front of a house in a narrow gully with houses on both the sides. It was his home in a Muslim predominant community. Since I was too young to suspect the situation, I was perfectly fine with it.
Inside his house, he lifted me up and took me upstairs in a dark room with wooden windows. He then took a peek at the streets through the window and shut them close. I am surprised to remember that I wasn’t scared at that moment. He left the room and a while later his wife came up with some food. I ate some, but I was getting worried. During that time, there was no phone facility either. After a couple of hours, he finally came to me again and asked me to change my clothes. I did that reluctantly. He had a pathani and a Muslim skull cap on. I kept asking him, “why is this happening, what is going on”?. Without answering to any of my questions, he took my school bag and put it in a sack.
We left his house in a different rickshaw this time. It was almost evening and the whole city was looking bizarre and deserted. There were burning tires and stones on the road. I could also see some burnt scooters and rickshaws. He took some tight streets avoiding the main roads. It must have been an hour before he stopped in front of a cinema hall near my house and asked me to change back into my school uniform, he too changed into a non-Muslim outfit. We left the place and literally ran for the next 10 minutes before he knocked on my door. On seeing me, my nana (grandmother), and maami were in tears. The rickshaw driver had taken me to his home to keep me safe, as the city was burning in communal riots and it was not safe for him to go to a Hindu predominant area in broad daylight. My Maami offered him a monetary reward which he politely refused.
Right now I’m in the USA, having no idea how to thank him for his kind, selfless, and heroic deed.
I do not even know his name, but I cannot think of anything greater done for the betterment of humanity.
I do not want this gesture to be lost in time, I think it deserves to be told.