Video Producer: Furqan Faridi
Bijay Pal has always tried to live his life differently. He prefers to stand out from the crowd.
The 50-year-old has been driving an auto-rickshaw in the streets of Kolkata for around three decades, but for him, the three-wheeler is not just a vehicle to earn his livelihood by, but a platform of his dreams within which he lives and breathes every day.
From wearing eye-popping clothes to decorating his auto-rickshaw, he does everything to catch a glance.
Unique Way To Spread Awareness
Upset with the mindless chopping of trees, Bijay has now taken it upon himself to create awareness about the environment. To achieve his objective, he has turned the rooftop of his auto into a miniature garden and has also sown plants which has began to blossom flowers.
"“I have been driving the three-wheeler for around three decades and always try to decorate it in a stylish way for grabbing attention but the destruction of environment has hurt me. I have transformed the terrace of my auto into a miniature garden and have also kept a football to catch the attention of children and explain to them the importance of saving the trees.”" - Bijay Pal, Auto Driver
Naturally, his auto-rickshaw has become the centre of attraction among the people who halt for a moment to capture the ‘moving garden’ on their cell phones.
Not an Easy Job
But the creation and maintenance of the miniature garden has not been an easy job for him, “The market is highly competitive and I manage to earn around Rs 350-Rs 400 every day but I had to shell out around Rs 8,000 for the garden which I sowed last September and certain amount is also spent regularly on its upkeep,” says the bachelor who along with his sister and her son lives at stone’s throw distance from the Vivekananda flyover in Girish Park area that collapsed in 2016.
He blames his dingy house for being unable to find a suitable bride, but, that has not deterred him from living the life of his choice. It takes almost two hours for him to get ready for work.
"“I love to dress differently. I wear sherwanis, kurta-pyjama with colourful turbans and even coat and pants and neck-tie while going to drive the auto. People call me crazy but I am hardly bothered.”" - Bijay Pal, Auto Driver
Big Fan of Amitabh Bachchan
Bijay is also a big fan of the Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan and wants to meet him someday. He spent four years to find a tailor who could stitch the electrically-dazzling costume that the actor had worn for the chartbuster song, ‘Sara zamana haseeno ka deewana’ in the movie ‘Yaarana’ (1981).
He calls it a divine intervention that he shares his real name with the reel name of the ace actor in several of his blockbuster films released during the 1970s and 1980s. Vijay is spelt as Bijay in Bengali parlance.
“I have been his fan since my childhood days. I still remember wiping the picture of the superstar hung on the wall of my room soon after waking up from sleep in the morning. I designed my hair-cut like the icon and did almost everything to imitate his style,” says Bijay who has been driving the three-wheeler between the nine-kilometre round stretch of Phoolbagan and Ganesh Talkies in North Kolkata since 1989.
His sister, Stuti Nandy, 66, is all support for him:
“My brother virtually worships the great actor. My only wish is to see him meeting the superstar. It would be great if media persons could make some arrangements to achieve his dream,” she says reiterating her brother’s wish.
Even his colleagues praise him for his efforts though some in private also call him eccentric in a humorous tone.
"“He always tries to do something different. His recent effort to turn the terrace of his auto into a garden is a commendable work for creating awareness on environment but we can never think of imitating him as it is a costly affair. He has to also spend money regularly for its maintenance. He can afford it because he is unmarried but we have families to look after.”" - Manoj Singh, Auto Driver
The customers also prefer to hire his auto for the journey,
“It is a wonderful initiative taken by him. I stay close to the auto stand in Ganesh Talkies area and wait for him every day to pick me up. I feel like a dignitary when people on the streets spare a glance on the auto and then on the passengers sitting inside. It’s a different experience altogether which cannot be explained in words,” said Sujay Verma, a hardware engineer by profession and his regular customer.
Truly, Bijay is an inspiration for all those who get so bogged down with the vagaries of life that they forget to live their dreams. No doubt, people like him are bound to be called insane.
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