Finders keepers? Not for this autorickshaw driver. Forty-five-year-old Nisar Ahmed believes you cannot claim what does not belong to you. In all his 22 years as an autorickshaw driver, he has always made sure he has returned unclaimed property to the rightful owner.
Returning a briefcase to its owner, helping a damsel in distress or saving helpless beasts, he has earned appreciation of the police and also the taunts and jeers from some fellow auto drivers.
It was during one of his early morning rides that he once chanced upon a briefcase on the road in Cox Town. It was 4 am and there was hardly anyone around. Ahmed could have kept it for himself like his passenger suggested. But being Ahmed, he first dropped his fare at his destination and headed straight to the police commissioner’s office with the case, without unlocking it.
H T Sangliana, the then commissioner, had the briefcase opened and they found a few personal articles and a bunch of credit cards in it. The police were able to contact the owner, who arrived and collected the briefcase. The commissioner immediately honoured Ahmed with a certificate, recognising his honesty.
On another occasion, Ahmed found a young woman sobbing at the Bangalore City railway station. On making enquiries, he learnt that she was married just a week ago and headed for her husband’s house in Kuppam in Andhra Pradesh from Chennai but slept through the journey. On waking up, she found herself in Bangalore. “Three different auto drivers had misled her saying they would take her to her husband but instead fleeced her,” said Ahmed. “I took her to the Bangalore Cantonment railway station. When I informed the police about the woman’s plight, they first shrugged it off saying there are many such cases and asked me who would pay her fare back to Kuppam,” said Ahmed.
Ahmed then turned to the fellow auto drivers who had by then gathered at the scene. They all managed to pool in enough money for the ticket. Ahmed didn’t let it go at that and insisted that a policewoman accompany her to Kuppam and insisted on an acknowledgement that the woman was handed over to her family.
Ahmed also recalls an incident when he found some sheep on the road side with no one attending to them. To his surprise, he found them at the same spot for a few more days. He approached a policeman, who suggested they “share” the booty. Ahmed, who barely earns `200 a day, then took them home. The father of three, who lives in a rented house, tended to the sheep for eight days, hoping the owner would turn up. With no claimant and with no means to feed them, he took them in his auto to CUPA’s animal shelter in Hebbal.
“Auto drivers must earn the confidence of commuters and behave in such a way that people arriving at the railway station speak highly about the honesty of Bangalore’s auto drivers,” said Ahmed, who doesn’t take articles left in his auto back home. “If I tell my children someone left it in my auto, they’ll then begin to think it is alright to take other people’s things,” said Ahmed.