The highways of Solapur see thousands of tourist vehicles ferrying the faithful to Shirdi. Some pray for prosperity, others seek salvation.
Amongst the throng is Shailendra Shinde, 33, who drives an Ola. His faith is fueled by hard work.
A doctor by profession, Shinde nurses strong aspirations for his family. So, what caused this doctor to start driving an Ola? It was his dream that his kids flourish, and enroll in an international school. He says
Mai nahin chahta ki jo mujhe nahin mila, woh mere bacho ko bhi na mile. Khaali bacho ke liye hi itna struggle kar raha hu, sir!
(The things I didn’t get, I want my children to get. There shouldn’t be any dearth for them. I’m struggling so hard only for them.)
Staying in the small town of Kuruvadi in Solapur district, Shaliendra has three children. Two three-year- old twins, who have already started going to school, and an eight-year- old. The twins’ school fees already cost Rs 25,000 a year.
To afford all this, he runs his six-year-old clinic from 9:30 am to 1 pm, earning close to Rs 1,000 a day. He is also burdened with a housing loan, which he has to pay off in time.
So, he worked as a night medical officer at the Lokmangal Hospital in Solapur from 10:30 pm to 8 am (next day), earning a mere Rs 12,000 monthly from his shifts.
While it was good enough to feed his family, this small town doctor didn’t just want his family to survive, he wanted them to flourish, being willing to work 18 hours a day to make it happen.
Shailendra says, “I’ve been working in hospitals for 11 years, doing night shifts and other things, so this is not new to me.”
So, what does he feel he missed out in life? He says he came from a humble background, and his parents were government servants. To fund his medical education at Bijapur, Shailendra’s father sold his only plot of land. However, Shailendra had once dreamed of doing an MBA.
The sale of the land only covered his fees. To make ends meet, he would work as a nurse in a hospital in the ICU delivery team earning a mere Rs 1,000 a month.
This would leave him him with very little time, and Shailendra remembers days when he slept hungry or ate just a vada pav for dinner. Sometimes, it was his only meal for the day.
He tells me that that he only had Rs 10 rupees to manage his day.
Today, he says nothing makes him feel more empowered than running his own business and meeting all his expenses.
Shailendra left his night job at the hospital a month-and-a-half ago. Shailendra now drives an Ola from 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm and a second shift from 9 pm to 8:30 am, in time to start work at the clinic by 9:30 am.
“Being a small district, Solapur doesn’t have many people taking cabs, except for tourists, many of whom book cabs from the railway station. I live really close to the station. So I get up and pick them whenever there is make a booking in the night, driving them to Shirdi and other places.” So, when does he sleep? Shailendra says he wishes to sleep peacefully when his financial conditions are better.
He says, “This is the time to earn because their (his children's) future is in my hands. Once they’re on their own, I can focus on myself.”
He manages to earn Rs 700 rupees a day through his bookings, which is much better than his earnings at the hospital.
But the ghost of his father selling their only land, still haunts him. There is a shopping mall, which stands on that land today, and he knows that it will never come back. But Shailendra will not stop dreaming and aspiring for more.
He wants to open a big hospital in Solapur, which lacks bigger hospitals and has only smaller clinics, naming it Ashoka Hospital after his father. He dreams of making his older child an electronics engineer and the twins, doctors, but he says he will leave the decisions to them.
As he leaves for his next booking, Shailendra leaves us with an essential learning.
Saab, life main humesha struggle karna hota hai. Cheez itni aasani se nahi aati. Toh aadmi jitna struggle karega, uska phal utna hi acha hoga. Kaam kaam hota hai. (You always have to struggle in life. Things don’t come easy. So the more you hustle, more will come our way. Work is always work, there is no alternative to it.)
Shaliendra’s story gives us a different perspective to hard work and perseverance, showing that no job should be treated as big or small. From a doctor to a cab driver, Shailendra symbolizes relentless focus where opportunities need to be grabbed by the neck.
And looking at his life, we realise that inspiration can also be found where you least expect it.