Safe Driver 85-year-old ‘Auto-Raja’ Monthu Lobo Spreads Awareness on Covid-19 on His Auto-Rickshaw
- Safe, Trustworthy and Reliable Driver 85-year-old ‘Auto-Raja’ Monthu Lobo (85) Spreads Awareness on Covid-19 on His Auto-Rickshaw
Mangaluru: He is in no mood to give up. At 85, he continues to hit the street every morning at 5 a.m. with his humble auto rickshaw that has never known what an accident is. Between the time when the minimum auto rickshaw fare was four annas (25 paise) and now, Monthu Lobo, aged 85, from Valencia in the City has spent 65 long years on the driver’s seat! Lobo vouches that he has never been caught for any traffic violation and that reason according to him is he has kept himself totally away from alcohol. “I am a tea-man,” adds ‘Tea-Totaller’ Monthu jovially.
He is one of the first few autorickshaw drivers of Mangaluru and probably the ONLY ONE who still drives one. He has been a witness to the City taking today’s shape – from the days of bullock carts to roads full of large numbers of vehicles, from buses, trucks, cars , two-wheelers etc. “Mangaluru was lined with horse and bullock carts,” he recalls. There were no vehicles in the city. “It was in 1956 that the city saw its first autorickshaw. I began driving one of the two rickshaws that were owned by a hotelier Achyuth Salian, for a salary of Rs. 150 a month. Those days, the minimum fare for the rickshaw was just four annas (25 paise),” he says with a smile. “Even the petrol was so much cheaper at Rs. 4 or Rs. 5 per gallon (4.5 litres).” He adds, “The city has changed a lot now, and is very dangerous to to move around in this three-wheeler, when we have these reckless riders and drivers swing by.”
With his savings, Lobo bought his own rickshaw ‘Lambretta brand Auto Rickshaw; with a loan of Rs 80K from Corporation Bank only in 2008. The rest of his savings were spent on his daughters’ marriages. The rise in the prices of petrol and LPG has put all auto rickshaw drivers in a fix, he says. Monthu hasn’t had any thoughts of retiring yet. “I wouldn’t want to give up driving. This profession gives me satisfaction, and earns me respect along with my livelihood. As long as I am healthy, I will continue,” he says. On safe driving, he said he drove very systematically.
“We were a family of eight- 5 boys and 3 girls, of which two brothers and two sisters are alive today,” he says talking about his early days. “My father’s name is Benjamin Lobo, died at the age of 85, and mother’s name is Flora Lobo, died at age of 73. I had five brothers and three sisters. Both my parents worked as coolies (daily wage earners) in the city.” Having studied up to class 6 in Kannada medium at St. Sebastian School, Bendoor, Mangaluru, with the help of Bethany Sisters, he had to discontinue his studies owing to family problems. As a boy, he began working at a bicycle repair shop to contribute to the family income. He says he would even now play cricket and shake a leg on occasions. He attributes his good health to God’s grace and frequent cups of tea that he consumes.
Monthu Lobo has a married son, who also drives a auto-rickshaw and two daughters, who are twins, are married and settled in Moodbidri, doing agriculture. At present he is staying with his wife, Eliza Lobo, aged 74, and one room in the house is shared by his son, daughter-in-law, and family. He had built a house on land donated by the then Bishop of Mangaluru, Rev Basil D’souza, who gifted the land for Monthu’s yeomen service to the society. His first auto-rickshaw was a Paggio brand made in England, costing Rs 3000 those years, when he started driving it at age 20, and the rickshaw was owned by a restaurant owner, and he was getting paid Rs 150 a month salary.
The state-level Sarathi No. 1 Award was conferred on Monthu Lobo, then 77 years-old, at the World Drivers’ Day celebrations held by the Indian Vehicle Drivers’ Trade Union ®, Bangalore on July 28, 2012 in Town Hall, Bengaluru. After that he has received awards from Besant college, Mangaluru, and also from District Police for being a safe driver. He has been conferred with a recognition award on the occasion of the 19th National Road Safety Week by the District Admin, RTO and Police a few years ago. “I had never applied for this award. When the RTO went through the records, they found out that I was one of the oldest auto-drivers with a very clean record, and thus I was conferred with the award, which was the most memorable one in my life, and I still cherish that moment. It should be noted that Monthu Lobo, is the founder member of the Mangalore Mahanagar Auto Rickshaw Chalakara Sangha (MMARCS). At present he is running his auto on private basis, and not for rent- and he has changed the colour of the auto-rickshaw. He has become a Good Samaritan, lately after switching his auto into private, transporting needy pregnant women and sick people to the hospital/clinics at no charge.
As the rise in Coronavirus took place in DK/Mangaluru, Monthu came up with an initiative to bring awareness on Covid-19, by displaying some messages related to Covid-19 and its prevention- and also carries a bunch of face masks, and distributes to people, if he sees them not wearing masks in public- and all the expenses for the display boards and face masks is borne by him, costing him few thousands. When asked why he wanted to do this community service, Monthu said, “I have seen people taking this virus not very seriously, and thus we are seeing the spike in Covid-19 cases. I thought I could play a small role in this regard, in bringing awareness to this deadly disease, so that people become careful, and no lives are lost. I am doing my part, it’s left to the people to like my service or not”.
Even though with no proper income from auto-rickshaw rent, Monthu still helps people in need, or gives them a free ride to hospital or homes, when they call him. Apart from that, he has one burden on him, taking care of his ill wife, who has been bedridden for the last 7-8 years, with diabetes and other health related symptoms. He is the care-taker of his wife-feeding her, providing medicine, bath, and other basic needs. He buys food for him and his wife, from Marybai’s restaurant in Valencia Cross Road, at Rs 70 for food parcel, enough for lunch and dinner. Now that he is getting old and due to poor eye-sight, and also unable to run the auto on rent, he has landed into a deep financial situation. And therefore, he has printed an appeal letter requesting kind and generous people to help him out in his financial problems.
When asked what’s his secret behind remaining a safe auto-rickshaw driver in the last 65 years at the wheels, he sincerely replied, “I very much follow the traffic rules and respect the traffic police. I am not in a hurry to reach my passengers to their destinations, taking shirt cuts or disobeying traffic rules, instead drive at ease and safely. I drive systematically and follow all the rules. I have seen many who speed up and break several traffic rules and end up in trouble. If one does things systematically, then there will be no accidents, unfortunately, that’s not seen among many of the present auto-rickshaw drivers. Also I have never argued with any personnel of the law and order department, and I have always respected the police, and also my passengers and have been polite to everyone who sits in my auto. I gave respect and in return, I earned respect . Thank You to all my well-wishers, donors, and especially the thousands of passengers that I have reached home/work safely, and for their patronage”.
Team Mangalorean makes a humble request with our readers to be kind-hearted and generous and help Monthu Lobo financially, and rescue him out of the financial crisis- and Thank You all in anticipation on behalf of Monthu Lobo, his ailing wife and his family.