Monday, January 25, 2010

Bangali Taxi Drivers in New York Demonstrate Honesty and Integrity


(L-R) Mohammad Asaduzzaman Mukul and Osman Chowdhury
Photo courtesy (left: and right:

When some highly-paid corporate CEOs and honchos have been raiding their companies bankrupt in New York, there are examples of poorly-paid persons winning over their greed and covetousness with plain honesty and integrity.

The stories of Mohammad Asaduzzaman Mukul, 28, and Osman Chowdhury,43, -- both from Bangladesh and working as taxi drivers in New York city -- are such examples.

Mohammad Asaduzzaman Mukul

It was Christmas Eve, December 24, 2009. Felicia Lettieri, 72, an Italian grandmother and six others hailed two taxis to go from midtown Manhattan to Penn Railway Station -- both in New York city. One of the taxis was Asaduzzaman Mukul's.

Mr. Mukul, a Bangladeshi medical student-cum-part-time taxi driver, later finds Ms. Lettieri's purse on the back seat of his taxi. When he opened it to look for any address, he found bundles of euros, some expensive jewelry, and a few passports with an address of Patchogue, Long Island, 60 miles away. Without even counting the money, his only thought at the time was to return the purse to the owner with its contents.

He then deposited his taxi to his company and called a Bangladeshi friend with a car and requested him to drive him to Patchgue following the address. When they reached the address, there was none available there. Yet, Mr. Mukul left a note on the door of the house. In the note he gave his cellphone number and asked the owner of the purse to call him so that he could return the purse.

Later the expected call came and Mr. Mukul again went there again to return the purse. The owner was Ms. Lettieri from Pompeii, Italy and she was extremely happy to get her purse back. There was US $ 21,000 worth euros in it. She wanted to give some money as a reward but Mr. Mukul declined it by saying that he was a devout Muslim and, therefore, he could not accept the reward.

Mr. Mukul went 240 miles (386 kilometres) in total spending his own money for vehicle gas but proved his honesty sacrificing any compensation.

Police and others had advised Ms. Lettieri that there was little chance of recovering the lost money and goods.

Francesca Lettieri, 79, the sister of Felicia Lettieri, told the Newsday that the honest taxi driver had saved her family's vacation. "We really love what he did," she said.

Mr. Mukul, a full-time student at a city college near his apartment in Jamaica, Queens, started to drive taxi a few days a week when his work hours were reduced at a factory job.

To a question of why he was so honest with the money, he replied: "My mother is my inspiration. She always told me to be honest and work hard."

He also said: "I'm needy, but I'm not greedy. It's better to be honest."

Osman Chowdhury

It was a day in February, 2007. A woman from Dallas, Texas, rode Osman Chowdhury's taxi to go from the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan to an apartment about 15 blocks away in New York city.

Some hours later, when Mr. Chowdhury opened his taxi's trunk to keep luggages of three other passengers, he realized that the woman from the hotel got down from the taxi without taking her luggage.

He then drove to the apartment, as since he did not know the apartment number of the woman, he took the suitcase to the headquarters of the New York Taxi Workers' Alliance where he is also a member.

When opened, the Alliance president and Mr. Chowdhury found two display cases with 31 diamond rings inside. After finding a luggage tag inside with a Dallas phone number, they called and reached the woman's mother and told her about the find.

Later in midnight, the owner of the suitcase went to the Alliance office and retrieved her luggage.
When the woman offered Mr. Chowdhury a cheque for US $ 100, he first declined it but later accepted it on insistence to cover the fares he lost while trying to locate her.

Osman Chowdhury was a contractor in Bangladesh before coming to the USA 17 years ago. He drove taxi in New York by renting one.

"I'm not going to take someone else's money or property to make me rich. I don't want it that way," he said. "All my life, I tried to be honest. Today is no different," he said.

Bangladesh School Textbooks Should Include These Stories

These stories of real-life honesty in face of temptations and competitions should get a place in Bangladesh School Textbooks. The next generations of Bangali students will find them inspiring.

What Do We Learn From These Stories?

Some strangers, some foreigners in our midst may be bad, but all strangers and all foreigners are not evil-charactered. Some Muslims may be terrorists, but all Muslims are not so.

We may recall the parable (story) where Jesus Christ mentioned of the "Good Samaritan," who was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but a pagan! (See the Bible: Luke 10: 25-37)

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