CHENNAI: Watching my children speak English is one of the proudest moments of my life,” beams Dhanadapani, an auto-richshaw driver in the city.
His elder son recently graduated as a veterinary doctor, his second son is pursuing his final year in civil engineering and his daughter is doing MSc in Botany.
Fifty-one-year-old Dhandapani came to the city at the age of 18 with `7 in his pocket. He learnt to ride a cycle-rickshaw and later became an auto driver. Today, he stands proud when his son got on a plane to start his career in New Delhi as a veterinary doctor after graduating from the Madras Veterinary College.
Dhandapani, who hails from Dharmapuri says, “I paid `5 for a ride and came to the city in a milk van, which dropped me off at Poonamallee. From there, I walked to the city with hopes of making a living and supporting my family. It was here that I realised how important it was to be educated and made a decision to educate my children no matter what,” says the driver, who came from a poor farmer’s family.
Within a few years, he got married and brought his wife Senthamarai to the city. With more responsibilities, Dhandapani never backed down and instead started working harder. “I’d start work around 7am and go on till 10pm. I have always tried to give the best for my children, and my wife supported me a lot,” smiles the driver. “I make around `500 every day. I had to borrow money to pay for my children’s education. But today I am happy — all my children will soon start standing on their own feet,” says Dhandapani.
Ninety nine percent hard work and one percent luck, is the saying that kept Dhandapani going so long — he has also printed this on his auto-richshaw. “I wanted one of my my kids to become an IAS officer,” he says.
Says Dr D Dinesh, his son, “Without my knowledge, my father submitted an application in my name for a veterinary degree. Only when the counseling dates were announced did I know about it.” Dinesh adds, “My dad is my role model. If it was not for him, I wouldn’t have become a doctor.”