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Last Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007, 17:27 GMT
Bangladesh cabbie is toast of NYC
By Salim Rizvi
BBC News, New York

Osman Chowdhury
Mr Chowdhury is proud of his job
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.

Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of New York City Taxi Workers? Alliance
I think it's beautiful to see both so much praise for Mr Choudhury, he richly deserves it
Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of New York City Taxi Workers' Alliance

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.

Mr Chowdhury's citation from NYC Council
Mr Chowdhury has received plaudits from far and wide

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.

New York city
The cab driver is the talk of the town

"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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