Virtual contacts, real rides

My unflattering perceptions about auto drivers take a beating as I get talking to M. Samson, who brings enterprise and sincerity to his job.

The 41-year-old, who is a school dropout, has wiped tables in a hotel and worked in a tailoring shop before finding his calling: driving an autorickshaw. He takes his job seriously, as is evident from his website >, through which he connects with old clients and finds new ones.

A member of the auto stand near Taj Coromandel in Nungambakkam, he boasts a clientele that includes names from Denmark, the U.K., Switzerland, Japan, China, Portugal, Algeria, Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S.

And he is creating a lot of buzz; sometime ago, he was the subject of a motivational speech delivered at the Anna University. Samson’s journey out of obscurity has been spectacular. Not as studious as his father and sisters wanted him to be, he was hauled over the coals regularly for his poor grades.

Tired of this, he left home in 1984, travelling ticketless in a train to Salem, where he found a cleaner’s job in a restaurant.

A tiff with a co-worker costing him this job, he returned to Chennai where he joined a tailor’s shop and worked for two years. “In those days, I would travel by train without a ticket and go to the beach to have a bath. I earned peanuts from the tailoring job. Inspired by a friend who drove an auto, I rented an autorickshaw and practised driving it in the evening, after the work hours at the tailoring shop,” he says.

The turning point came in 1994, when British national hired his auto for a ride to the Marina from Taj Coromandel Hotel.

“He paid me Rs. 100 and asked me if I could be his auto guy for the next week. For seven days, I took him from Taj Coromandel to British Embassy and back, for which I was paid Rs. 1,500.”

That was the beginning of his new life. The Briton was so impressed with Samson that he recommended him to his British friends who visited Chennai often.

“I would take these people from England to Mamallapuram, Puducherry, Gingee Fort, Kancheepuram, and Vedanthangal in my auto,’’ says Samson. If the guide did not turn up at any of these tourist spots, Samson filled in his role.

Soon, people from other countries found him. In 1999, a Japanese woman created an email-id for Samson and donated him Rs.10,000 towards the purchase of an auto. A Danish man gifted him a laptop and donated Rs.15,000 for a few years towards the education of his children.

Samson gratefully sends these clients of his, which include foreign bureaucrats, ministers and businessmen, messages and gift cards on their birthdays and Christmas.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 10:51:07 PM |

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