Vijay Thakur, 74, had quit his job as a mechanical engineer at Larsen and Toubro to devote his life to driving a taxi. The cabbie extraordinaire has transported more than 500 emergency patients to the hospital. It all started in 1982. “My wife Saroj, who was three months pregnant, needed medical help and we spent more than 30 minutes looking for a taxi or rickshaw that would take us to hospital.
Eventually, the pregnancy had to be aborted. So, I took up voluntary retirement in 1984 and decided to become a taxi driver, promising to myself never to decline a passenger,” Mumbai-based Thakur recalls.
While his wife and relatives dissuaded him, urging him to start a consultancy practice instead, Thakur chose to follow his heart. “My ultimate aim in life was to help those in need at any hour of the day. Whoever sits in my cab gets my card and can contact me even at three in the morning and I will take them to their destination,” he says.
Fifteen years later, his 19-year-old son died after an unsuccessful surgery for cancer. In addition to the emotional agony, Thakur experienced the financial strain of medical treatment. This incident strengthened his resolve further to help people in need.
“I can’t take money from patients because it’s during hospitalisation that they need it the most. I now get calls from patients suffering from kidney stones, road accident cases and other physical injuries day and night.” The back of his car has a white sticker: “Hospitalised patients can travel free in this taxi”.
His monthly income, about Rs 10,000, a drastic fall from Rs 65,000 per month at L&T, comes from general passengers. He says, “I believe that everything is not about money. I am is 74 years old, can speak 11 languages, have the qualification to be an advanced engineer…but the highlight of my life is that until today I have transported more than 500 emergency cases to the hospital and tried my best to at least give them a chance to survive.”
One day, at around two in the morning, he saw two men on the road frantically waving for a cab. “I stopped for them and realised that they had a woman with them who had suffered 75 per cent burns to her body. Many cab drivers before me had refused to take her in their vehicles because of this. I gave them a blanket which I keep in my car, asked them to cover her and drove like a maniac to get her to the nearest hospital.
For the next few days, I kept checking to know if she had survived — and by God’s grace, she did. We are friends now, and she still thanks me for that night.”
For the last 31 years, he has been driving a black-and-yellow taxi — first a Fiat, now a Hyundai Santro. Thakur’s younger son Vineet and daughter-in-law Dipti are both managers in private firms. While the son drives a brand new Swift, Thakur travels only in his Santro. “It runs on gas, saves money,” he explains.
Thakur has high blood pressure and diabetes. His legs and hands pain because of continuous driving. But he is happy. “I don’t go by the concept of aging. Your heart and mind have to be young,” he signs off....