In 2015, bus contractor Yusuf Khan was earning approximately Rs4 lakh a month and his company, Khan Travels, had eight buses to its name. Since the lockdown, most of those buses have been seized by banks; Khan Travels has been effectively grounded, and Khan is making ends meet as a taxi driver.
Born and raised in Dharavi, 44-year-old Khan has worked hard to climb up the ranks. As the son of a fruit seller, his childhood was marked by poverty. He left school after Class 8 and started working as an electrician. When he was in his 20s, Khan learnt how to drive and went to work in Saudi Arabia as a taxi driver.
He stayed in Saudi Arabia for five years and then returned to Mumbai. With his hard-earned savings, he bought a small bus. In 2013, he set up Khan Travels. By 2015, he had invested in eight buses and was earning around Rs 4-5 lakh each month. When the lockdown was imposed, his earnings dwindled swiftly as schools were closed and transport was taken off roads.
“Two school buses were left, after the rest were seized by the banks [Khan had bought the buses with the help of loans], and they are biting the dust in the bus stand. There was no income for several months after the lockdown and I did not see the situation improving,” said Khan, who is the sole breadwinner for his family and the father of two sons aged 13 and 17.
In August, Khan started driving a black and yellow cab, which he has leased on rent. “I manage to earn Rs 20, 000 a month as a taxi driver but it is not enough to make ends meet,” he said.
The effects of the lockdown were harder to bear because Khan had been hit hard by demonetisation in November 2016. Khan’s monthly income reduced from Rs 4-5 lakh to between Rs 50,000 and 60,000 and subsequently, he had to scale back his operations. He had been hoping to expand by adding more school buses to Khan Travels, but the lockdown put an end to those plans.
Since March, Khan could only watch was his carefully-built business collapsed and his savings were depleted.
Despite the setbacks, Khan remains determined and optimistic. “I have no regret that things did not turn out as planned and I have no shame to work as a taxi driver again. The money I earn is through sheer hard work. Financially, I have seen some very difficult phases in life and if I have managed to overcome those, I shall overcome this as well,” he said.
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