A man who ferries stranded passengers for free at night in this rural Kerala district
Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
'Sathar' is a name that does not go unrecognized in most parts of Kasargod, the northernmost district in Kerala. For people who know Sathar, a look of recognition and happiness appears on their faces when asked about him. One evening, I was witness to the reason behind this recognition as I stood waiting at Kasargod's old bus stand. As I waited along with many others at the stop, I saw Sathar, wearing a white shirt and riding his Honda Activa towards the stand. He had a pillion rider with him and they stopped right next to me. I came to know that the pillon rider was in no way related to Sathar; the two in fact did not even know each other. "I was standing at the railway station when Sathar came and asked if I needed a lift. He picked me up from the railway station and dropped me here," he told me. This is exactly what Sathar does. A common man, Abdul Sathar is a daily wage construction worker- but what he does for inconvenienced people is something not many would care to even give a passing glance. Usually, most people would think twice before giving a lift to a stranger. Whizzing past in empty cars, the easier option is usually driving away rather than agreeing to help out someone people don't know. However, fifty year-old Sathar finds passion in offering lifts to strangers late at night when they need help the most, with time, place and money being the last on his mind. In Kasargod, which is located 52 km from Mangalore, late night travellers often find themselves stranded at night as public transport becomes virtually non-existent after 8.30 in the evening. Left to fend for themselves, travellers find it hard to commute in this rural district where many localities are reachable only by a single bus service that runs for specific periods a day. For this district, where both state and private bus services become scarce at night, the back seat of Sathar's two-wheeler always remains reserved for strangers. "Being a human being we should do something for others. I am a common man I can't do great things, so I have opted this way to help others. I start riding around 7.30 pm and finish by 11.30 pm. Some days I start early," he said. For Sathar, this practice has become routine as he has been doing the same service for the last 10 years, ever since he bought a motorcycle of his own. He even goes to the extent of commuting people to different destinations during strikes and Hartals, a common occurrence in this part of the state. He even takes people to rural destinations, about 35kms away from the town. The reason for this service provided by Sathar is both sad and painful. A seaman, his father Muhammed did not return home from one of his sea trips in 1979. An employee at Kairali ship, Muhammed had gone missing during its Goa to Germany trip. While waiting at nearby bus stops, the railway station and other public places, Sathar used to constantly find people struggling to find transportation late at night. To help them out he would drive them home safely, free of cost on his motorcycle. Every day Sathar makes several trips dropping people to their destination. Sometimes, he even gives his number to strangers who think they might need a ride later. When Vineeth, hailing from Badiadukka, reached Calicut at 11.30 pm, the entire place was deserted 'no autorickshaws were available', and taxi drivers were asking for exorbitant fare. "Then I met Sathar and he offered to drop me home. He drove 20 kms just to drop me." For most people, bus service is basically the only mode of transport as no jeeps ply in this area with large areas filled with forests. "No one has ever become poor by giving." Anne Frank Sathar uses his own money for the petrol and he carries an extra bottle of fuel in case of long drives. One condition he puts on his passengers is that he will not accept anything in return. "I don't hesitate to drive to far off places since there are no other means of transport here late at night. When I offer a lift, some are skeptical about my intention initially but later accept it and thank me." For a man who has endured the pain of knowing what it meant to lose loved ones, he has been helping people reach their homes every night, and in a way reuniting families, thus, keeping them safe.