How to balance work and life on the road: Ask Baban

Auto driver Baban Khandale

I stepped out of the coffee shop and waved down a passing auto rickshaw. He stopped but wasn’t interested in my destination (happens often in my town). Tried the next one. He smiled, ushered me in happily and said: “I am new here. You will have to guide me.” I involuntarily paused, looking for a catch. This was unusual.

Baban Khandale was unusual. In the 45 minutes that we took to reach my house, Baban told me his story, shared his philosophy and left me wiser.

All work, no life

He used to work as a salesman in a clothes shop at a suburb some 17 km away. He also took up driving a rickshaw at night to add to his income.

“I had to work at the shop from 10 in the morning to 10 at night. I would barely get an hour’s break for lunch. That was not enough to take care of my family, to be with them. The children would be sleeping when I reached home. And I would be sleeping when they left for school. That was no life.”

He has three daughters and a son. The eldest is set to appear for her final year in school.

“Apart from school, I have arranged for her private tuition. She will need one more tuition soon. Now I have enough time to take her from school to tuition.”

All figured out

He owns the little room that is home. Yet, with six mouths to feed (including his wife) how could he give up a job that paid him ₹ 16,000 a month?

“My target is to earn about ₹ 1000 every day. Once I reach ₹ 22,000, I take the rest of the month off. For the remaining two or three days, I am with my family. We go on picnics. There is a dam not far my house. We love to go there. I could not have done all this if I were in the shop. We are happy now.”

Then he reeled off numbers. He had it all figured it out. As long as he had enough to cover his expenses (and vehicle loan installment) he did not see any point in overstretching. His time with his family was very important.

“Next year, I will pay off my remaining installments. I will own this vehicle. That means I can save more. Enough money for my children to study. You know, if you think about it, you really do not have to spend too much. After all, how much can you eat?”

Always with him on the road

He is yet to sort out one problem, though. The names of three of his children are emblazoned on his rickshaw—Bhakti, Sai and Radhika. But Meghna is missing. He opens his wallet to show me their photos.

“I need to figure this out. I tell her the whole rickshaw is yours. Can’t seem to pacify her.”

Ride over, he gladly poses for some photos. Yes, he has heard about websites. No, he has no objection if I want to write about him. But he is puzzled. What do I want to write about him?

I thank him and ask him to keep the change. He protests; I insist.

After all, I had brought him some 50 km away from his people. Perhaps that little extra would help him reach his daily target a wee bit faster? Maybe that would give him some more time with his family this evening?

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