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Life & Money Lessons from Kantilal

“Wadala Station?” I asked as a taxi approached me while I was returning home from a trip to the Siddhivinayak Temple here in Mumbai today.


“Come, sit,” the driver said, as I thanked my stars because a few drivers had turned my request down.


“I was going towards Chembur, and Wadala is midway, so would take you there.”


“Oops, but why does your meter start at 20 rupees? Isn’t this high than normal fare?”


“Sir, this is a cool-cab (Mumbai’s AC taxis), so the rate is higher. But don’t worry, since you don’t need the AC, I will charge a normal taxi’s fare only.”


“Thanks! By the way, Chembur is very close to my home. Why don’t you take me there?”


“It will cost you 200 rupees to Chembur.”


“And Wadala?”


“About 40 rupees.”


“Okay, take me to Chembur for 200 rupees.”


“Why waste money, sir?”


I was surprised to hear this from a taxi driver, whose peer group is otherwise cursed for looting money from passengers. Before I could’ve said anything, he continued.


“Sir, if you can save 160 rupees by taking the train from Wadala instead of Chembur, why waste money on the taxi travel? Plus, the train from Wadala will get you home faster. And anyways you are not carrying any luggage with you. So I would suggest you take the train and save money.”


I was utterly surprised at this man’s thoughts about saving money. So I enquired about his family and work.


“What’s your name?”


“Kantilal, sir.”


And you have been driving taxis since…”


“For the last 34 years.”


“Great! And what about your family?”


“My wife and 2 sons stay with me in Mumbai, while my brothers and their families live in a village in Uttar Pradesh.”


“So you go to your village every year?”


“No, I have not been there for the past 5 years.”


“Why? You haven’t met you brothers for so long?”


“I have been saving money for my children’s higher education, and that’s why I didn’t think of wasting even a single rupee on anything else.”


“Where are your sons studying?”


“The elder one is working as a salesman in a finance company, and the younger one is doing his MBA plus working with a mobile company.”


“It’s great to know that you got your children educated.”


“There’s nothing in life without education, sir.”


“Yes, that’s right!”


“And sir, without proper education, you can never learn how to live your life properly.”


“But you are not so educated, so how can you say so? You talk sensible things and have been very smart to get your children educated.”


“It has taken me years of struggle to get my children educated and provide for my family. I know, with education, I could’ve done this faster and better.”


“Yes, I think you are right here. Proper education and the right mindset to use that education could’ve taken you places.”


“Yes sir! I don’t want my children to live in the darkness of ignorance. That’s why I have got them educated so that they can take sensible decisions in their lives.”


“That’s a very nice thought,” I told him. “And you must have also taught them about saving money, right?”


He smiled, and said, “Yes sir, that’s a very important lesson. I have been a saver for the last few years of my life and that’s why I was able to provide for their education. Now I’ve asked them to save as much as they can, so that they are also able to provide for themselves and their dependents in the future.”


“It’s very nice to hear that.”


“Thank you, sir! I believe saving money from whatever you earn is very important. And if you are an educated saver, you also know how to save and let that money grow in the right way.”


“You see, things have become so expensive these days,” he continued, “Price of everything is rising. So if you don’t save and don’t let your money grow, you can get into trouble in the future.”


I was astonished on these wise words on saving and investment from a poor, uneducated taxi driver.


“And sir, I am not greedy to run after money and neither are my sons. So we are satisfied with whatever we earn, and whatever we are able to save. There’s no point in wasting your life running after money, which is just your servant.”


“Amazing,” I said to myself as the taxi stopped in front of Wadala Station.


“It was great talking to you. Here, take your 50 rupees.”


“No sir, it’s 40 rupees.”


“But your meter is reading 50 rupees!”


“Remember I told you that this is a cool-cab and thus the meter reading is higher. But since we have not used the AC, the fare is only 40 rupees.”


I was surprised again, this time on his business ethics.


“Goodbye Kantilal ji. Take care,” I said while getting down from the taxi.


“Goodbye sir, it was nice meting you,” he said.


Lessons learnt
On my journey from Wadala Station to home, I continued to think about the discussion I had with Kantilal, and the amazing insights he shared with me on life and the need to save money and let it grow.


I sometimes wonder if more and more educated people think and act like Kantilal.


Over the past eight years, I’ve met many people who were highly educated but had lost their way while managing their hard-earned savings.


They had speculated on bad investments, led by ‘hot tips’ from their financial advisors, friends, or neighbours.


After years of hard work in their education and career-building, just one or two bad investment decisions had cost them heavy.


I wish such people could take some lessons from Kantilal. Lessons like…

  • Saving to be able to provide for themselves and their family’s future needs
  • Not getting greedy when it comes to money matters
  • Not chasing money and instead living content and fulfilling lives
  • Laying great importance on education to remove the darkness called ‘ignorance’
  • Being ethical, even when not being so could earn them more money easily


Kantilal, I owe this post to you. And I wish you continue to spread your wisdom on life and money with all your passengers.


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