We catch up with a taxi driver who reveals the repercussions his work has on his health and life
Manoj Pandya doesn’t like to smile for photos. It isn’t that he is camera shy, it’s that he lost a tooth last month. At the age of 42.
“It makes me feel old” he says, rather miserably. You see, Manoj is a Taxi Driver in the city of Mumbai. In a life that revolves around finding and ferrying customers, everything else takes a back seat. Literally. He talks to us about his eating habits - he only eats from stalls where he gets a full meal... No vada pavs and samosas for him. He tries not to drink too much tea... but the hours are long, and sometimes, especially when he works nights, it is the tea and bidis that work with him.
Intrigued, we asked him about how the others manage this, and he laughs the question off. It would seem the others are worse off. Those who chew tobacco, are the worst. He tells us about one of his cousins who has more gaps in his mouth than teeth. He laughs, but it isn’t a good laugh. The rest of the taxi ride, we were all silent. I think for all of us, this was the moment when we’d seen our collective blind spot on this issue. “We’re media people,” we thought, “there’s definitely something we can do here.”
And so resolved, we walked into office inspired to make a difference… and found, to our delight, that Colgate had beaten us to it! Not only had the same gap (no pun intended) been identified by Colgate, but they had taken time to understand the nuances and come up with a solution that would actually work.
Knowing that for most Taxi Drivers time is a very precious commodity, Colgate decided to use the one space where these folks have nothing to do but wait - the Mumbai International Airport. By setting up a free oral health camp at the airport itself, in one stroke, they removed the barriers of both time and distance (and of course, money).
When we visited, the place was teeming with Taxi Drivers, and more importantly, it was sparking conversations between those who had been inside, and those who hadn’t yet picked up the nerve to do so. And of course, there was free toothpaste!
What was striking for us though, was the energy we saw here. There’s not a lot of appreciation or TLC that comes to this group of people… and this initiative seems to have struck just the right chord with them. There were smiles galore - some toothy, and some not so. In the mayhem that is the Mumbai International Airport, here was a little island of joy and discovery.
Kudos Colgate. We are so impressed.