Monday, November 19, 2012

Twinkle in Tricycle Rickshaw-walla's eyes

Picture by me, 2010, Chandigarh.

In 1987, I had been to Chandigarh for a cricket coaching camp organized by our employers.  The coach designated was none other than Desh Prem Azad, the coach of the famous Kapil Dev, the Indian captain.  The camp itself turned out to be a flop for many reasons, but I'll remember that trip for a particular incident that happened when I landed in that beautiful city.

Tricycle-rickshaw-pedalling (in some cities) is one of the more physically taxing professions.  Chandigarh's road network suits these tricycle rickshaws.  So they still thrive.  Squandering money on unnecessary things and quarreling for petty bargains is an old deep-rooted habit.  People that toil are not spared too.  There are people who avoid this mode of transport from the humanitarian angle though it is cheaper than their mechanical counterparts.  Let me share a moving experience.

I was traveling alone to join my other team mates who were from other places. I landed that evening in the Bus Terminus and had to go to our Guest House, not far away.  I had to hire a tricycle-rickshaw to reach there.  A few of them refused to take me to that location for reasons best known to them, but one rickshaw-wallah came forward with his quotation of Rs.8/-, which in 1987 was reasonable (others were 10 and above).  The natural tendency of bargaining made me ask for Rs.6/- to which he readily agreed and pushed his vehicle to the 'ready position', much to my surprise.  The short journey began, with me keeping the luggage on the seat and sitting beside it. 

Chandigarh as we know, is a well planned city whose roads having no gradients. But the wind that evening was gusty and strong.  We were going in the direction against it.  If anyone has experienced bicycling against a strong wind, he will know how it would be.  And this man was pulling me in the back seat.  I remembered the time in 1980 when our group had gone to Somanathpur on bicycles and we faced the same situation on our way back.  It was the same there in Chandigarh that forced the rickshaw-walla to get down and push the tricycle along which he had to do often.  They are used to such tough work as they live a hard life, but I was really feeling bad. I too sometimes got down and walked beside, to make it easier for him to push.  

Such a journey made me feel that the destination was far away.  On reaching the Guest House and alighting with my luggage, I placed coins amounting to Rs.8/- in the rickshaw-walla's open palm. Counting, he looked at me in surprise, because it was actually for Rs.6/- that he agreed. 

The rickshaw-walla was an old Sikh and white-haired.  His palm with the coins was still open in surprise, as he was giving an extended look at me.  He never expected and he had no mind to demand more.  I could see it.  I placed two more rupee coins in his palm and looked at him again.  His wrinkled face was expressing a pure and honest contented look.  There was also a beautiful twinkle in his tired eyes that seemed to hide all his other troubles, a sight that would move many hearts. Imagine the plight of such toiling people that are so satisfied with merely a couple of extra rupees!  How difficult life must be!  He slowly turned and left with a 'jeete raho beta' [may you live long, son] blessing which seemed to pour out of his heart.  It is a sight that is unforgettable. 

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