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Updated: Jun 08, 2019, 13:31 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi

Azad Yadav, a man on a mission with a fully equipped auto and eponymous Youtube channel, is out to change the country. The Guide goes for a spin

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)A message on Yadav's auto exempts pregnant women and those associated with the Indian Army from paying fare. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

Azad Yadav is a 24-year-old with a twinkle in his eye. His demeanour is demure at times and at others, brimming with filmy mardaangi. It makes sense then, that at one point in his life, while still an adolescent in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, Yadav spent his spare pennies watching movies of Mithun Chakraborty, Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra. Today, between driving his auto, running his YouTube channel and doing seva, he has no time to squander, but he did watch Tiger Shroff’s latest.

He belongs to the peasant- pastoral community of the Hindi belt. At the age of 13, he migrated to Mumbai after his father passed away and worked at a chai shop in Malad West for a few months. "I called my mother one day and started crying. It becomes very difficult for us to get used to a 16- hour work day. Main wapas chala gaya," he recalls. At 19, when Yadav returned, he did a few odd jobs. " Lekin humara mann nahi lag raha tha. Humein kuch bada karna tha," he tells us. So, in 2016, he used all his savings to buy an auto. Now, he was his own boss.

Pimp your ride
He was enjoying his new role, but his fiery ambition is apparent even today. It must have been that very zeal — to be exceptional, out of the ordinary, and to get noticed — that led him to pimp up his ride. His auto is a rara avis speeding down the streets of Mumbai. It has been fixed with a cushiony car seat, and at the back, there are fans, a charging point, dustbin, donation box, first- aid kit, box of lozenges, a netted pocket for newspapers, tissue paper, and pen stands. The adverts for his YouTube channel and public service messages plastered on the auto’s exteriors make it even more conspicuous. Gawking onlookers are amused and amazed in equal measure — it draws a lot of attention, and Yadav enjoys it.

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"If 10 per cent of the people make fun of me, the rest appreciate my efforts," he asserts. He is brazen, but if you pay attention, you can identify goodwill in all the self- praise. "Maine 2017 mein Andheri mein ek auto dekha. Uska driver Sanjay dutt ka fan tha, toh usne apne auto ko bahut achche se sajaya tha. Woh dekh kar humein idea aaya ki hum bhi kuch alag kar sakte hain," he says, adding that the renovation began with installing fans for passengers’ comfort and with time, additions were made based on suggestions his riders and friends offered. "Sometimes, if it's a long ride, people feel sick, so I keep candies. I keep a flask of cold water, but not everyone is comfortable with it. So, I also keep small Bisleri bottles," he shares.

Seva for the samaaj

Seva for the samaaj But Yadav doesn’t want to stop at being an impressive rickshaw owner. His mission is to raise awareness and affect social change. At the crux of that lies his innate wish to do seva, which he’s doing with his auto- rickshaw, and now, his own YouTube channel. So, in 2018, inspired by actor Varun Pruthi's channel where he goes around town spreading stories of the downtrodden and engages in philanthropy, Yadav began Azad VIP News and an eponymous organisation that comprises 20 delivery boys, drivers and other peers from UP, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The page, which has 1.2K subscribers, showcases videos of Yadav interviewing people, like a fellow rickshaw driver who’s being harangued by a bank. The videos are shot on phone and uploaded with the help of organisation members. "Kisi bhi samaaj ki asliyat jaanni ho, toh bas raaste pe kya ho raha hai dekho," he sermonises.

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A snippet from one of his videos

As someone who spends most of his day on the streets, Yadav is confident he sees the most. But it’s hard to tell if he wants to be a politician or hates them. "They waste time on caste- and community- based politics, but do very little constructive work. Inhone humein vote bank samajh ke rakha hai," he says. And what is the purpose of it all? "Hum achcha kaam karenge toh public- city [ sic] milegi. Then, hopefully, I'll be able to make money and help the needy. If my channel takes off, I'll set- up a proper studio for it, and give my auto to my uncle. Apna dil toh dhirubhai Ambani se bhi bada hai," he shares, and then, drives off to find his next customer.

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