When Sureshchandra Pandey, an autorickshaw driver in Mumbai, went out for work on a Friday evening, little did he think he’d end up going the extra mile for the safety of his passenger. At around 6 pm, he picked up a 28-year-old woman passenger from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, who first said that she wanted to go to Yaari Road in Andheri. She changed her mind after some time and asked him to go towards Bandstand instead. But the change of destination was not without purpose.
“The woman told me to drop her off at Bandstand so that she could jump into the sea and never be found again. I first thought she was joking and laughed at her statement. However, she repeated the same thing several times during the journey, after which I became worried,” Sureshchandra told The Hindu.
Realising that she was serious, he stopped the auto in Ville Parle and asked the woman what was wrong. She said she had recently lost her job and had been very depressed. She felt she had no one in this world and had no reason to live. Moreover, when her mother came to visit her, they had a fight and she left for Delhi.
He tried to talk to her and make her feel better for the next half an hour, but soon realised that if he refused to take her to Bandstand, she would take another auto. Thinking quickly on the spot, he told her that they should go to the airport police station where the police would help stop her mother from boarding the flight. She agreed and on reaching the police station, Sureshchandra instantly ran to the duty officer to let him know that his passenger wanted to commit suicide. She was taken to the police station and counselled. Two hours later, the police sent her to Cooper Hospital where she is undergoing counselling.
“I know it is a tendency among people to shy away from such situations, but I have five children, three of them girls. What if it had been one of my daughters? How would I feel if one of them wanted to take such an extreme step and no one helped her?” Pandey told The Hindu.