Bandh woes: When Bengaluru’s overcharging auto drivers didn’t even spare ‘Gandhi’
BENGALURU: Seventy-three-year-old Mahatma Gandhi lookalike Augustine D’Almeida, dresses like ‘Bapu’ and travels across India. He stands as a statue of Mahatma Gandhi for two-three hours at public events, including political events. Almeida, a Christian, wears Janiwaara (the holy thread worn by Brahmins) and fasts during Ramzan.
He is headed to Porbandar in Gujarat, to be part of Gandhi’s 150th birthday celebration on October 2.
But, it was his misfortune to be in Bengaluru when the bandh was in force, as he experienced the greed of the typical Bengaluru auto driver. He may be Mahatma Gandhi’s lookalike but this didn’t stop city’s auto drivers from charging him a whopping `700 to be taken from Frazer Town to Majestic, a 7-km ride — which he refused, preferring to stick around at Bangalore East Station for over four hours waiting for a train to take him to Majestic.
Almeida was born in 1945, a Goan, and was brought up in Mumbai. He studied till Class 9 and started working as a welder. Later, he joined as an underwater welder in a ship company with which he worked till 2001. Post retirement, he worked at a couple of other firms, but then quit.
For the past couple of years, he is on a mission, travelling to various places to spread a message — not Gandhian values, but about women empowerment, unemployment and banning Chinese items.
“It was my barber who told me that I look like Mahatma Gandhi. It was then that I decided to dress up like the Father of the Nation. This simple change made people stop and listen to what I had to say, which otherwise was not possible,’’ he says.
Almeida has travelled to China and Japan. In Karnataka, he has travelled to Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Karwar, Mysuru and other places. “I had been to Mysuru and came to Bengaluru on Monday morning. My cane broke, I was told I could get one at Bamboo Bazaar in Frazer Town. As I was at City Central Railway Station, I took a train to Bengaluru East Station, from there I went to Bamboo Bazaar to buy the cane. I had to head back to Central station but auto drivers in Bengaluru were demanding more than `700 which is a lot.
So, Almeida waited at Bengaluru East Railway station. “Since Bengaluru East is not a big station, many express trains do not stop here,’’ he said.
Almeida wears everything like Mahatma Gandhi did — the mundu, the spectacles , a small bag, and a cane, but barefoot.
One additional thing that he carries is a basic mobile phone to keep in touch with his wife and daughter who works in a private firm in Mumbai.
“I do not own a car, and I believe in a life without luxuries. It has been more than 40 years that I have been skipping breakfast. With whatever little savings, I travel.”