FOR ONCE, Digambar Thak took the backseat in the Fiat Linea of his “saheb” — Akola Collector G Srikanth — while Srikanth took the steering wheel and chauffeured Thak to office in the government vehicle specially-decorated for the latter’s farewell. Thak retired on Thursday, October 31, after serving as a driver for 33 years. “I don’t think I have done anything extraordinary. It may seem so to many in our country, where dignity of labour is a scarce commodity. However, in the West and some other countries, people get respect irrespective of the nature of their work,” Srikanth told The Indian Express.
Watch what else is in the news
The gesture has since become the talking point in Akola. “We respect the mechanical engineer but not the mechanic. We respect the civil engineer but not the mason. We respect the fashion designer but not the tailor. During my visits to the West, I have seen how respectfully drivers, labourers, washermen etc. are treated. We need to inculcate this great value,” Srikanth said.
The Collector, known for his pro-people initiatives, also presented Thak with a silver-plated miniature car on the occasion. “Thak was a very punctual and workaholic driver, who would be available 24×7 without a grumble. Generally, people at the lower ladder of hierarchy get addressed in singular terms but I used to call him mama (uncle),” Srikanth said, adding that even if the other driver is not like Thak, he/she will still deserve similar respect.
Overawed by the Collector’s gesture, Thak said, “I served him for the last one and a half years. He always treated me with respect and used to call me mama. On Thursday, when I reached his residence, he asked me to sit behind and said he would drive me to the office. I initially hesitated but then said ‘as you wish’. He also honoured my wife with a new sari. My life has been lent a touch of gold by him.”
Srikanth was recently in the news for his ‘Wall of Humanity’ project, where people were requested to hang usable things, like clothes they no longer need, on the wall for the benefit of the needy. He has also been also praised for his initiatives towards reducing farm distress.