September 2nd, 2016
Balaji lost his legs at the age of 19, and his life had taken a lot of hard hits since then. Life by itself is full of challenges, let alone the differently abled. “Yes I did get a corporate job earlier, but the pity and mercy they showed me made me feel depressed” says Balaji when asked about how things were for him then. But on one fine day, January 7 to be exact, his life took a turn.
“I used to drop my Yoga teacher with my bike, and out of the blue he asked me one day, ‘Just like you drop me, why can’t you drop the other people on road to the places they want to go, with a fare attached?’. The idea struck, and I never looked back” says Balaji who is 34 now and the pioneer of MAA ULA. That’s how it all started.
MAA ULA (MAA – is for Maatru thiranaaligal, ULA – Ride) signifies what it stands for. A bike taxi on the cover sounds like a normal service anyone can start and do, but the fact that it is being run by differently abled people is what makes it special. Initially, Balaji was doing this alone, and thanks to the vision of Mohammed Gaddafi, the co-founder of MAA ULA who organized more into the fleet. They are a team of five now and more are expected to join the league.
“For the first two kms we charge Rs.25 and 10/km above that. Night charges are Rs.15/km, with the base fare remaining the same” says Balaji with confidence. MAA ULA has a lot of regular customers too, and Balaji treats them special with surprise discounts then and there.
From feeling embarrassed during the initial days when he had to scout around areas, asking people to hop for a ride (he said it made him feel like a beggar), to proudly running MAA ULA now, the journey of Balaji is truly a special one, and a lesson to all those who complain about life being tough.
“I feel like flying when I ride. I love my job and I am proud of what I do. I am my own boss. My vision now is to make many more differently-abled friends to join MAA ULA” he says with an overwhelming joy in his face. He does sing well, as you can see towards the end of the video.
The next time you want to take a quick ride in Chennai, remember to ring Balaji at 8939 391259. You will be in for a safe and joyful ride to your destination.