Yusuf was a bus conductor. He wasn’t highly educated, nor was he extremely pious. He was a simple guy who loved his family. He was hardworking and a simple person. A typical day for him meant getting up early, completing his religious prayers, helping his wife with some chores, and depending on his duty shifts either dropping or picking the children from school. He was a private man. He lived in a ‘basti’ in Mumbai, and harbored dreams that his children should be well educated and get good jobs. He had friends from all religions and he never considered his two daughters any less than a boy.
Yusuf didn’t read many religious books nor did he consider himself a scholar of Quran, but believed Allah blessed people who worked hard and helped others and lived by this ethos. So at times he would buy a ticket for a rag picker who looked too tired to walk home or calm down a crying school girl when she realized she forgot the bus money at home. He did such small gestures as and when possible. He called them ‘Neki ka khazana’.
One day Yusuf was on the night duty. It was their last run before the bus would be driven into the bus depot and the driver and Yusuf could go home. As it was a night run and the route on which their bus plied was majorly empty and lonely they did not expect many passengers. The few passengers that had gotten into the bus at the start of the journey got down. The driver said “Now if we don’t get any more passengers we might be at the depot in the next half an hour” Yusuf agreed and was happy as it was a holiday next day and he had promised his daughters to take them to Chowpaty.
As the driver and Yusuf chit chatted about the plans next day, they saw the lights of a car blinking away at a distance. The driver slowed the bus as they reached near the car and they saw a young girl peering over the open bonnet. Yusuf asked the driver to stop and asked the girl “Kya hua madam? Gaadi shuru nahi ho rahi aapki?” (What’s the matter? Did your car break down?) She looked up and nodded and said “My vehicle broke down and I am waiting for an auto or a cab to come by” Yusuf informed her that this part of the road was usually empty at nights and she might not find an auto or cab. He asked her to get in the bus and they could drop her till the depot which was in the heart of the city, from where getting a cab or rickshaw would be easier. She looked uneasily at the empty bus, but realized she had no other alternative. She got into the bus cautiously. Yusuf realized her uneasiness and said casually, she should inform someone at home about her problem and the fact that she is boarding a bus. He even offered their depot address and phone number for her relatives to contact.
She felt reassured by his thoughtfulness and smile. She settled down and the bus started down the lonely strench. Just as they crossed a party lawn two young men got into the bus. They seemed to be a little drunk. As they got into the bus, they eyed the girl sitting at the back. They smiled at each other and started making way towards the seat where she was sitting. Yusuf and the driver knew these men could mean trouble. Yusuf quickly got in the way and said “Pehle ticket nikalo phir baitane jao” (First take the tickets and then go) As the men fumbled with their wallets, he addressed the girl “Beti tum bhi aake ticket le lo” (You too come here and buy the ticket) The girl realized that Yusuf was asking her to sit at the front of the bus near the driver and open door. She quietly made her way past the men and sat in front. He then told the men to go sit at the back. As they protested and started acting rude, Yusuf and driver stole a quick look and he simply said “The smell of the liquor makes the driver vomit and we don’t want an ill driver on this empty road!”
As the driver drove the bus in full speed, Yusuf said a quick prayer and stood between the boys and the girl. The rest of the journey was uneventful and they reached the depot in the next 20 minutes. As all got down, the girl saw someone who had come to pick her up. She thanked the driver and Yusuf and quickly made her way to the waiting car.
The next morning, Yusuf saw a number of calls from the bus depot. He called back and was informed to reach the depot in half an hour. He got worried and hurriedly got ready to reach the depot. As he reached the depot, he saw his friend the driver from earlier night pacing around impatiently. As he saw Yusuf he said “Even you have been called on a holiday! What do you think is the reason? Hope our holiday is not cancelled.” Just as they were discussing the possible reason for such urgent summons, they saw the girl from the earlier night smiling and coming towards them. “Hello my name is Aalia. I am a reporter with Peoples Voice newspaper. I would like to take your interview.” Now they were totally baffled. Yusuf asked “Madamji hamara interview kyu?” (Why take our interview?) Aalia said “We are so used to reading about unruly drivers, rapist cab drivers, rude conductors that drivers and conductors are seen with a preconceived notion of being repugnant or atleast impolite. You changed my attitude yesterday and now I want the world to know my story and see you all in the same light” I just want to know what made you do what you did yesterday. Yusuf and the driver just smiled and said “Madamji we did not do anything great. We have children, wives and sisters. It’s just something any decent man would have done” Yusuf added “My daughters too go on their own to school or tuitons. I can’t be with them always, but I believe if I help someone with my deeds Allah ensures that there is someone to look out for my daughters as well! Neki ka khazana kabhi zaaya nahi hota.”
Illustrations by – Smitha Patwardhan