JP Sundararajan still remembers that when the train arrived at the platform in Bangalore, India, he was tired and ready for bed. It was already late and the trip from his boarding school in Chennai had taken a long seven hours.
He asked a nearby autorickshaw driver for a ride. The man wanted 100 rupees—over five times what it should cost. JP insisted the driver use the meter, but the man said no. JP walked away frustrated but not surprised. Like most Bangaloreans, he was used to unscrupulous behavior from rickshaw drivers.
Twenty-five years later, he still cringes at thought of having to haggle with them. Perceived as dishonest, uncouth, and at times criminal, drivers are widely regarded as a necessary evil. It’s not uncommon to see them by the side of the road, arguing with customers or even caught up in fistfights with rival drivers.
But he’s also witnessed a countercultural movement among a group of autorickshaw drivers who’ve become Christian. Through a ministry his parents started decades ago, JP and his family are able to equip Christian drivers with materials to help them share their faith as they work. The In Touch Messenger is one of their most valuable resources.
Dayalan, the leader of the group, told JP the Messenger helps them in the stress of their daily lives. “When we ride around this city with all this hate and anger, we’re listening to Scripture, and it gives us peace,” he said. Dayalan’s group intentionally acts against the negative stereotype ascribed to drivers. “They will never charge you more than what the meter says,” JP said. “They will always be courteous and never engage in behavior that will bring disrepute to God.” And if they don’t have a passenger, they’ll often stop to help other motorists stranded on the road, which cuts into the time they could be looking for work.
The drivers have customized their vehicles to fit their mission. Stickers with Scripture verses adorn the carriage, and a rack holds Christian pamphlets for anyone interested in learning more about Jesus. Up front, some of the drivers have installed a holder for the Messenger, which they connect to speakers inside the cab. When they pick passengers up, the Bible or sermons from Dr. Stanley are playing in the background.
As they listen to the Bible throughout the day, it reminds them that every action, no matter how small, is an opportunity to express the love of God—even driving a rickshaw.
Photograph by Atul Loke