Bangladesh cabbie is toast of NYC


By Salim Rizvi 
BBC News, New York  
9 February 2007 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/6345901.stm

A Bangladeshi immigrant taxi driver in New York is the
toast of the Big Apple after returning a $500,000 lost
bag of diamond rings to their rightful owner. 

Osman Chowdhury's honesty has made him an instant
celebrity, propelling him onto the city's airwaves to
receive the plaudits of the great and the good. 

He says that he is proud of what he did, because cab
drivers are honest. 

In the same week, a cab driver of Indian origin in New
York returned a wallet containing nearly $6,000. 

Owner traced 

Forty-one-year-old Mr Chowdhury - a Bangladeshi green
card holder - was plying his trade as usual in
Manhattan on Monday evening, when a female passenger
boarded his cab at a midtown Hotel. 

The passenger got off at an apartment building on 35th
street. 

She paid $11 for the $10.70 fare. But she left a bag
full of diamonds in the boot of the vehicle. 

When the next set of passengers tried to put their
luggage in the boot, Mr Chowdhury found the bag. 

But with the help of the New York City Taxi Workers'
Alliance, a cabbies' advocacy group, the bag was
opened to reveal around 30 diamond rings, neatly
tucked into cases. 

There were some loose diamond rings too. There was
also a laptop and some business papers. Next Mr
Chowdhury, with the help of the taxi workers'
alliance, had to contact the owner. 

Eventually they found a Texas phone number in the bag,
and after repeated calls they traced the mother of the
bag's owner. 

She in turn contacted her daughter, who came over to
the alliance office and thanked Mr Chowdhury
profusely. 

She tried to reward him, but he refused, saying that
he had only done his duty. 

"I never thought about any reward or anything in
return. I can never keep anything that belongs to any
other person. I have been this way all my life," he
said. 

His honesty has led to a barrage of media interviews,
with American newspapers and TV stations - including
international channels - wanting to interview the
"honest cabbie". 

Reward 

For the last two days he has also been interviewed by
scores of news organisations in the US and across the
globe. 

In addition, the New York City Taxi and Limousine
Commission has honoured him with an Achievement Award
for 2007. Even the City Council of New York City has
joined in, by given him a citation praising his
honesty. 

And the word is that the New York City Mayor, Michael
Bloomberg, may announce a reward for him. 

Mr Chowdhury is unfazed. 

At his residence in Sunnyside, Queens in New York, he
was his usual humble self. 

"I never imagined that I will be the centre of so much
media attention. 

"I'm proud of what I did. I hope my next generation
will remember what I did and follow me. I also want to
tell people that New York taxi drivers are honest," he
says. 

The members of the Bangladeshi community in New York
are proud of this son of the soil. 

"There are good and honest people in every community.
But with his deeds Osman has made us all Bangladeshis
very proud," neighbour Shafiq Alam said. 

Mr Chowdhury came to the US in 1992 to work as a taxi
driver in New York. 

Distraught 

Back home in Bangladesh he used to work as a
contractor. He is still unmarried, but lost his
parents recently and has to provide for his family
which includes many sisters. 

He does not even own a cab, but rents it for 12 hour
shifts. 

The job is so stressful that it has affected his
health. He suffers from high blood pressure, and
kidney problems. 

"But I have always maintained that no matter what the
problems we face in life, we should not resort to
dishonesty," he said. 

And in what has been a good month for South Asian taxi
drivers in New York, a taxi driver of Indian origin
returned a wallet containing $5,950 to a passenger. 

"If money doesn't belong to me, I don't keep it," said
Vinod Mago, 55, an Indian immigrant. 

"I know God is watching everybody, every second." Mr
Mago had just started his shift when his taxi
controller called to say a distraught man was missing
his wallet. 

He found the wallet in the back seat and raced to the
airport in time to return it to the owner, who gave
him and the taxi coordinator $100 each in gratitude. 









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