“Everyone is laughing. Now the whole city knows that we [taxi drivers] are honest and hard working,” said Sunnyside cabbie Osmond Chowdhury.
Standing next to his cab on February 12, Chowdhury sported a new suit, but no overcoat. With his body braced against the chill, he said that he had made the other drivers very proud.
“After this I’m going to CNN, then I’ll come back to Queens and go to work,” said Chowdhury, whose newfound celebrity comes from having returned a bag of diamonds to a low-tipping, careless jeweler last week.
Chowdhury, 41, works twelve hours per day, seven days a week and often earns as little as $300 a week, but doesn’t want to get rich by taking other people’s property. He took the 30 cent tip offered him by the well-to-do jeweler in good grace. Later he reluctantly accepted a $100 reward to make up for lost fares while he tracked down the jeweler.
The bag, containing 31 diamond rings, was found when his next customer, looking to load his suitcases, opened the trunk of his taxi. “I find lots of property, laptops, cell phones, I always return them even though sometimes it means missing fares and even getting fined when I double park outside the customer’s building.”
Chowdhury has been honored by City Councilmember Eric Gioia and will soon be honored by the full Council and the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Chowdhury is very proud of what he did and delighted at all the attention. He showed The Queens Courier a picture of himself in The Weekly Bangla Patriki, a New York newspaper for the Bangladesh community.
“I’ve been talking to New York One, Channel Two and Four and the BBC,” he said. He is very excited about the BBC interview because it means that “his people,” will see him on television in Bangladesh.
“Then they’ll know I’m working hard and doing well. It’s not at all unusual to work twelve hours per day in Bangladesh,” said Chowdhury, whose father died when he was two and his mother passed away when he was eight. He was raised by his sister who still lives in Bangladesh, and whom he hasn’t seen in years.
Chowdhury is a man with an old-fashioned sense of honor. He sleeps only three hours a day and the rest of his time is spent working as an organizer for the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a drivers’ advocacy group. When not there, he’s volunteering his time at a Bangladeshi community group called Bogra District Association. “I’ve always been like that, even in Bangladesh, I want to work very hard, and give back,” he said.
Chowdhury is single. “It’s hard to get married when you are driving a taxi. They want someone who is more professional.” Chowdery said. He explains that he’d been to college in Bangladesh and studied humanities. Since arriving in Queens in 1992, he has taken a six-month course to become a computer accounting clerk, but is happy to be driving his taxi.