In 2013, 20-year-old Nagesh Kale met with a train accident, which resulted in the amputation of both his legs. But instead of being bogged down, the Pune resident, who was working as an auto driver, chose to tap into his indomitable spirit and strong will, that had carried him through difficult times in the past.
“I had to drop out of school after Class 8, because of my family’s financial condition. Eventually, I purchased an auto rickshaw with the help of some relatives, and started earning. After my father passed away in 2011, my brothers and I took responsibility for taking care of each other and our mother,” he says.
The accident happened when Nagesh was returning to Pune, after visiting a friend in Mumbai.
“It was crowded, and someone pushed me from behind while they were getting off the train, so I fell down, just as the train started moving. I was rushed to the hospital, but there was very little that the doctors could do, and my legs had to be amputated.”
It was a challenging time for the young man. He was earning a decent amount as an auto driver, and had plans to get married, but the accident had changed all that. “I was very disheartened, and wondered if there was any point in going on. But my family stood by me, and helped me get better.”
Ankush, Nagesh’s elder brother, who works as a software engineer mentions that during this time, they also approached someone who makes prosthetic legs in Pune, with the hope that Nagesh would be able to get back on his feet.
“The doctor treating him had referred us to the prosthetic maker, and we managed to get prosthetic legs worth Rs 2.5 lakh for him. But, since his amputation was above the knee, he said that the prosthetics added extra pressure to his legs,” he says, adding that Nagesh felt more comfortable manoeuvring around a wooden board fitted with wheels. Even today, he uses the wooden board over the prosthetic legs.
A Fresh Start
With the support of his family, Nagesh slowly re-established a daily routine, and within three months of the accident, he got his auto modified to start earning again.
“I knew I could not use the leg brakes, so I spoke to a local mechanic, and for Rs 2000 I got the modifications done. The brake wire had to be rewired from the foot to the handlebar,” says Nagesh.
But he was still hesitant — the accident had affected his confidence — so his friends stepped in to help.
“We would go on short rides everyday. One of them would sit with me or behind and help me get into the auto, and out. In 6 months I gained the confidence I needed and started driving around by myself. Now, my upper body is extremely strong, and I can lift myself on and off the auto,” says the auto driver.
Nagesh also found a steady source of support in Archana, a close friend, who stood by his side throughout this difficult time. The two would go on to wed in 2015.
The Auto Driver Who is a Ray of Positivity in these Testing Times
Like for many others, the ongoing pandemic has had severe repercussions on Nagesh’s work.
“Before the lockdown was announced, I would earn approximately Rs 1000 every day. Now, it has dropped to Rs 200 per day, and then there are days when I don’t earn a single penny. But, I am hopeful that things will get better. I have survived a crisis before, and am confident that I will do so again,” he affirms.
Nagesh freely dispenses this positivity among his customers. Sagar Dhavan, a resident of Pune who always turns to him whenever he needs a ride, says “Apart from driving us around town, during the lockdown Nagesh helped my family a lot. He would pick up groceries for my in-laws who are staying alone, and he would also check on them now and then to ensure they have everything.”
The times are tough but Nagesh continues to work hard, and remains optimistic about the future. “I want to work hard to give my family a comfortable life. I also wish to save up money to open a driving school for the differently abled some day.”
If you wish to help Nagesh and his family, here are their bank details:
Account Name: Nagesh Gulabrao Kale
Account Number: 25023912369
IFSC Code: MAHB0001610
Bank of Maharashtra
Picture courtesy: Nagesh Kale
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)