| Rickshaw-puller Amarjeet Ram and (above) tea seller Gopal Prasad Yadav. Pictures by The Telegraph and Nagendra Kumar Singh
Patna, Feb. 26: They shared prime time TV space with their heroes but the battle for survival is not over for either of the two.
Gopal Prasad Yadav can be seen selling tea to people at his Kajipur Lane shop while rickshaw-puller Amarjeet Ram pedals along for customers. Their fate, forget fortune, has hardly changed.
A day after 35-year-old Amarjeet became the “second hero” after RJD chief Lalu Prasad rode his rickshaw, he is back to his normal self. Same can be said about Gopal (40), who, despite some fumbles, had managed to speak to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on February 12 at the much-hyped “chai pe charcha” event.
While Amarjeet was almost drenched in sweat pulling his rickshaw today, Gopal was in front of the burner serving tea as their share of fame was almost on wane. Both of them, who represent the face of the common man in Bihar, want to move on doing what they have to do — earn bread and struggle for a living.
Over a lunch of rice and curry at a roadside makeshift hotel near the secretariat, Amarjeet said life for him never really changed even as chief ministers had their turns. “I hail from a village in the Muzaffarpur district but was a migrant labourer working in Punjab for long. It has been around five years that I came back to the state and I came to Patna just 10 days back. I am a driver by profession. In my village, I drove pick-up vehicles for sometime but lost my job and there were no employment after that. I have a family of parents, wife and three children. Everyday, I earn around Rs 200 and the same was the case when I was into driving in Muzaffarpur as well. Life for us is and always has been tough,” he said.
Amarjeet was seen pulling the rickshaw on Tuesday with Lalu seated on it. Lalu was exhausted after his long walk and decided to take the rickshaw instead of his swanky cars from the legislature building to Raj Bhavan.
“I was moving when some people stopped me and in the next moment, I saw Lalu Prasad sitting on the seat asking me to move on. I don’t have any idea why he chose a rickshaw as I saw many cars as well. Everyone was shouting slogans and I also joined. I was paid Rs 700, which is good for me. I plan to go to my village and give it to my family, as we need to buy rice and other items. Someone told me that the televisions had my face yesterday. But it is really not my concern. I need to earn for my family,” he added.
Asked whether he had seen any changes in his or his family’s life all these years, Amarjeet was quiet. “Where is the change? In my village, I don’t get subsidised ration despite having a red card. The officials in the block office ask for money as bribe as I don’t have those APL and BPL cards. Kaha se laye Rs 5,000 (From where should I bring Rs 5,000)? There is no job for us, too. If things have changed, our living standards should have improved a bit. Laluji and Nitishji are heroes. Just because my face flashed on the television does not really mean I have become famous. I will continue doing what I am doing — fighting for my family’s survival. This rickshaw is also a borrowed one and I have to pay the owner half of what I earn. At the end, I am a rickshawallah and things have not changed,” Amarjeet said as he readied himself to move on searching for customers.
Gopal, however, hoped that Modi will change his fortune and things for him will move for the better if he becomes Prime Minister.
Gopal was seen standing in front of the stove with a huge container filled with tea boiling. The man, who was too scared to speak to Modi, the self-proclaimed chaiwaala of the country, earlier this month, sounded at ease as he dealt with customers serving. “I was frightened a bit that day. There was so much of crowd and everyone was cheering. And there were so many big leaders surrounding me too. But then, at the end, I had asked my question, isn’t it?” he asked.
It has been 15 long years now that Gopal has been selling tea in the same spot. “Life has not changed much. Yes, I was a swimmer earlier but then I never really got help from the state government. Things were bad in during Laluji’s time and no one cared. Hopes shattered in front of Nitishji too. I really wanted to become a swimmer and bring laurels for the state. But I ended up becoming a chaiwaala,” he said.
Gopal said he was a positive man at heart though. “Yes, I do get calls from people in the BJP. They sometimes ask me to come to the office but I really cannot leave a day’s work and go there. I am hopeful that Modi will solve all my problems when he becomes the Prime Minister. I am really optimistic about that,” he added.
About the fame factor he tasted when he talked to Modi, Gopal was quiet. “I think he will be a good leader. I am a common man and fame is for those who are big,” he said.