Pay It Forward: Living with the Locals

I have been wanting to share a certain experience and this prompt applies perfectly. My two month prolonged vacation in India was not only accompanied by laziness, overeating, and relaxation to its fullest, but I learned some interesting things about those around me. For so long, I hesitated to write about this experience, not wanting to come off as clichéd because like many others it speaks to the poverty that many Indians live in and how they constantly struggle, tirelessly but happily so to improve their standard of living.

My grandparents live on the countryside of a rapidly growing city called Nasik, also known as the city of grapes and wine. They live in a quaint bungalow surrounded by small 1-2 room dwellings that they rent out to people. Many of the tenants are from the lower socioeconomic class and most work as auto rickshaw (small Indian cab) drivers or in smaller companies. My family was lucky enough to meet and get to know a tenant that was known to come to anyone’s aid even if it was in the middle of the night. I decided to interview him and it was a worthwhile 20 minutes of my life. Here’s how the interview went:


Name: Naneshwar Khanderao Sonawane

Birthplace: Pune highway-Nasik district

Education level: 6th grade

Occupation: Auto rickshaw driver

Me: What was your first job?

N: I started working when I was 14. I sold bread for 6 months, then worked as a waiter, and than in a small shop till I was 18. By the time I was 19, I was already married.

Me: What is one bad experience you had or the thing you would have changed about your life? 

Naneshwar had tears in his eyes as he recalled this part.

N: My dad was an alcoholic so that made things difficult. Working wasn’t easy either. When I worked as a waiter, the restaurant manager would kick me awake at 4 am. I couldn’t sleep till 11 pm because I worked for so long. Then in five hours, I had to be up again. I couldn’t go home so I lived at the restaurant.

Me: What is one good thing you treasure in your life?

N: My wife. She’s my motivation.

Me: What message do you want to give to your kids that maybe wasn’t given to you in your childhood?

N: I want to give my kids everything I didn’t have, especially an education. 

Me: Given that you have had some difficult experiences, whether related to the greater government or not, what is one thing you would change about the Indian government? 

N: The government should ban porn! (Pornography has become a controversial issue over the years in India due to the easy accessibility but the government has worked on passing laws to strengthen the ban). In addition, population control should be encouraged by allowing each family only to have one child. 

Me: What current laws do you agree with?

N: I think rapists deserve the 14 years in jail and terrorists deserve the death sentence. 

M: To end the interview, I just want to ask. What is one take away point in your life? What has helped you be who you are today?

N: I always believed in my own hard work to get where I needed to be.

At the end of the interview, Naneshwar told me he recently bought his own car, which was one of his greatest accomplishments. His utmost dedication to his work left me surprised and inspired. Surprised because a man who had frequently driven me where I needed to be within the city, the man who had lived 200 ft away from us, had been through so much. Yet what really got me, was his happy-go-lucky attitude. His words weren’t the only thing that illuminated this, but the twinkle in his eye really spoke about his struggles and his successes. Even a small endeavor like buying a used car meant so much to him and his pride inspired me. I cannot imagine how many people like Naneshwar go through the same thing over and over again, but they really inspire others to lift themselves up again and continue to have a positive outlook on life.

I looked at this interview as my own personal experience of Humans of New York. What HONY does, I cannot even begin to fully comprehend. It’s really beautiful. Whether you have had a perfect life or not, learning from the experiences of someone else, whether good or bad, whether from a friend or stranger, touches your heart in some way. Only now can I begin to understand the inspiration that the interviewers of HONY must feel as they talk to each stranger and learn some valuable things that only help to awaken the kindness within us.

(In response to Pay It Forward)


13 thoughts on “Pay It Forward: Living with the Locals

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