BEST driver Rajendra Todkar with shuttler P V Sindhu and her coach Pullela Gopichand in Hyderabad. (Express Photo)
DRIVING an open-deck double-decker bus named “Nilambari” for the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking for 23 years now, Rajendra Todkar (48) never thought he would get a chance to meet the first Indian woman to win a silver in the Olympics. Especially when she is not a Mumbaiite.
So Todkar believes he was really “lucky” when he was selected to drive Mumbai’s “Nilambari” in Hyderabad for the massive victory rally of Olympic silver medalist P V Sindhu Monday morning. Though the journey, nearly 750 km from Mumbai to Hyderabad, was long, the excitement to meet Sindhu made it lighter. “My colleague Rahiman Chaugule and I drove the bus in shifts. We left Mumbai Sunday morning and reached Hyderabad around 4 am Monday. After that, we decorated the bus and left for Hyderabad airport where we welcomed Sindhu along with her team,” said Todkar.
BEST sent “Nilambari” after being requested by officials in Hyderabad to send an open-top double-decker bus like the one used to welcome a victorious cricket team a few years ago. With fans lining up in front of the bus to catch a glimpse of the star, Todkar said he had a hard time driving. “Children and so many fans would come in our way to either say ‘Hi’ or just catch a glimpse of the star. Though there was strict police bandobast around, I had to move the bus very slowly to make sure no one got hurt,” Todkar added.
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The happiest moment for him was undoubtedly when Sindhu agreed to pose for a picture and sign an autograph for him. “Though she is the most-coveted person on earth now, she greeted everyone with a smile. I felt so fortunate when she agreed to pose for a picture with me and also signed an autograph. I immediately WhatsApped it to my son as he is also a big fan of hers,” added Todkar.
Todkar, who is in Hyderabad for another day, will also drive “Nilambari” to Vijaywada for Sindhu’s other line-up of events. He will return later this week to Mumbai but with some “special memories”.