Udaysinh Jadhav, known as ‘Ahmedabad no rickshawalo’ has been running an auto with no meter on a pay-it-forward model for the past 12 years.
In 2006, the movie Lage Raho Munnabhai reintroduced us to the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. It portrayed ways to handle difficult situations in a non-violent way with a smile on your face, making Gandhigiri cool.
While that was a movie, we came across a man who actually practises Gandhigiri in his day-to-day life — Udaysinh Jadhav. Dressed in a ‘Gandhi topi’ and khadi kurta, Uday Bhai, as he is called, follows the footsteps of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Known popularly as ‘Ahmedabad no rickshawalo’, his autorickshaw has no metre; it runs on a ‘gift economy’. People can pay as they please, and what they pay is essentially a gift for the next passenger.
Born in a large family consisting of four brothers and two sisters, Udaysinh dropped out of school after Class 10. His father used to drive an auto, and Uday started working in an auto garage to support his family. Later on, he too started driving an auto.
“While driving the auto, I met a doctor who hired me. I started doing tel malish (oil massage) at his clinic and worked there for many years,” recalls Udaysinh.
In 2010, the 50-year-old started running his auto in Ahmedabad on a gift economy and has since persevered with the same concept for more than 12 years.
Love all, serve all
It was sometime in 2008–2009, that Udaysinh was introduced to Manav Sadhna — an NGO dedicated to the upliftment of the underprivileged. He started volunteering there and later at Seva Cafe, a restaurant which runs on a similar gift model.
“At Seva Cafe, you pay for the next person’s meal. I volunteered there for two years, and I was deeply impressed and inspired by the work done by these two organisations. Padma Shri Ishwar Patel (founder of Manav Sadhna) and his son Jayesh Patel made me realise the importance of seva (service). So, I decided to do something of my own to serve people,” he says.
Armed with the motto of “Love all, Serve all”, which is also written on his topi (cap), he started driving his auto in 2010.
“I come from Gandhiji’s karma bhoomi (land of action) — Sabarmati, and I want to live by his ideals as much as possible. Money is not important,” says Udaysinh. “Each passenger is given a box after their ride, where they can pay what they please. The inside of the box reads, ‘Pay from your heart’.”
Walking on the path of Ishwar Patel, the underprivileged in the city ride for free with Ahmedabad no rickshawalo. Even those who are short on cash or have lost their wallet need not pay.
Udaysinh recalls an incident where a man from Delhi had lost his wallet.
“I saw this man at Sabarmati railway station looking very flustered. He spoke to a few auto drivers but no one gave him a ride. I went and asked him what happened, and he explained that he had lost his wallet. Then I asked him where he wanted to go and took him there. He was so happy and relieved as he had got off at the wrong station and had to go a really long way,” adds Udaysinh.
What makes his auto even more special are the amenities inside. It is equipped with water, a dustbin, a library, snacks prepared by his wife, toys, and an akshaya patra (inexhaustible vessel).
“I used to buy snacks from outside earlier, but now my wife makes hot theplas and Gujarati snacks daily, and I give them to my passengers. I want my passengers to have a good time; Atithi devo bhava (guests are God) after all. I also deposit some amount in the akshaya patra daily and use it to help the poor,” says the Gandhivadi.
Managing a family of five
While a gift economy sounds ideal, the reality has been difficult for the father of three. Until a few years ago, he had ten people living under his roof and had to provide for all. Add to that three growing boys and their educational expenses, the path has not been smooth.
“Initially, my family wasn’t happy. My father himself used to question me and wonder if this would work out as I had to provide for everyone. While I have faced challenges, thanks to my wife, we have managed well. She manages whatever groceries we have at home, and she is the reason that my children are pursuing a good education today. My children have also not been fussy and get good grades without any tuition classes,” says Udaysinh.
His oldest son is a mechanical engineer, while the second one is pursuing MCom, and the third is doing a BA.
“Initially, we didn’t understand why he was doing this. As we grew up, we realised what a great job our father is doing, and we are proud of him,” says Rohan, Uday’s son.
Some days he earns Rs 100, while some other days he gets Rs 500. He also offers Ahmedabad heritage tours and acts as a guide.
“There will be ups and downs, but we need to focus on the ups. God will take care of everything. If people don’t help each other, who will?,” says Udaysinh.
He is a popular face in Ahmedabad, and even celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan and Paresh Rawal have met him.
“I have ridden two–three times with Udaybhai. His generosity is truly inspiring,” says Natasha, an Ahmedabad resident.
Udaysinh hopes to buy a new auto next year, as his current one is now in a bad condition.
To help him, you can donate here:
Name: Udaysinh Ramanlal Jadav
Account number: 201010110006885
IFSC code: BKID0002010
Branch name: New cloth market, Ahmedabad
Bank of India
(Edited by Pranita Bhat)