"I believe that a few gestures of kindness and compassion always go a long way in helping people,” says 45-year-old Shaik Saleem.
Temperatures in Hyderabad will soon touch the 40 degrees Celsius mark, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.
The first measure to beat the heat is to hydrate yourself, making sure that your body functions at full capacity. It is common knowledge that rising temperatures and humidity result in excessive sweating, which robs your body of energy and electrolytes.
Thankfully, for many Hyderabadis, ordinary citizens like 45-year-old auto driver Shaik Saleem are kind enough to relieve anyone’s thirst on a hot summer day with chilled, purified water.
Travelling across the city with a water cooler attached to his auto and two cans of 20-litres each, Saleem has been serving cold water to fellow Hyderabadis since the summer of 2017.
On some days, even three cans aren’t enough.
Starting his day at 9 am from his home in Fatima Nagar in the Falaknuma area of Hyderabad, this husband and father of four children, ferries passengers to nearly every part of the twin cities.
“If you have lived in Hyderabad, you know how hot the weather gets, especially during the summer. You need to drink a lot of water to survive in the job. But every time I would stop by for a drink, I would only get bubbling hot water which can be hard to drink in this weather,” says Saleem, in an exclusive conversation with The Better India.
He adds, “Then, I thought about all the others who struggle for some drops of cold water in this hot weather. So, I started giving away free cold water to thirsty passengers and bystanders.”
Saleem has been driving his auto rickshaw for almost 20 years and serves anyone who cares to ask. Everyone from the traffic policemen who stand under the burning sun for long hours to the general public can avail of his generosity.
“People usually ask me how much they need to pay me for the water, but when I tell them that they don’t, they really appreciate my work,” he says.
Validation for his kind services has also come from those most ignored by society–daily wage labourers–who often have to work under inhuman conditions during the hot summers.
“I once came across a couple of daily wage workers looking to quench their thirst after a hard day’s work. So, I just offered them some water. They asked me how much it was, but when I told them it was free, they thanked me for the gesture. Their reaction made me feel good and gave me more reasons to continue what I am doing,” recalls Saleem.
When asked, Saleem doesn’t feel he’s doing anything special. For him, it’s just a simple gesture of kindness and compassion, which he believes will come back to benefit him in the long run.
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“I believe a few gestures of kindness always go a long way; any small thing you do can be really big for others,” he says.
With more Saleems driving around our cities, the summer could get a touch bearable.
(With inputs from Kevin Ronith Kumar)
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)