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 Bharat, The Rickshaw Puller

By Nirmal Kishor Prasad

It was around 6 o’ clock evening, end of office hour. I was preparing to leave office by shutting down my desktop computers. My mobile rang, picked up the shell phone. It was my 8 years old daughter Anya. “Papa, when’re you coming to residence?” she said.

“I’ll come after half an hour, but why are you asking…” I replied. 

“Papa, today is Tanisha’s birthday, she is my best friend. She had come in my birthday. I’ve to go to his residence in her birthday.” She explained her reason for the enquiry.

I was bit silent for a moment as after long office hours without any prior plan I was rarely interested to go anywhere.

Realizing the pause in our talk, she understood that I was not in a mood to take her to her friend. She said, “Papa, Tanisha’s residence is not far off, it’s in Sewanagar, normally we go there for marketing and you drop me at her residence…”

I was fully aware of Tanisha’s residence, but silent because of some other reasons. But hearing her innocent answer, I didn’t have any other option except to drop her at her friend’s residence.  “Yes, I’m coming. Get ready,” I said. 

After reaching home, I said to my wife, “Give me bags. When I’m going Sewanagar to drop her, she may spend at least 45 minutes there. During that period, I’ll utilize the time in buying vegetables, potato, onion and if possible,  a bag of 25 kg rice.”

“Anand needs a passport size photograph for submission in school,” said my wife. 

Our son Anand is 12 years old, studying in class VIII.

“Anand, come with me.” I said. 

I dropped Anya at Tanisha’s residence, took Anand to photo studio, digital photograph captured and instantaneously delivered.

I advised Anand to accompany Anya in the birthday party of Tanisha till I finish the shopping.

I tried to finish my shopping at vegetable market of Sewanagar.  After half an hour, I had a big bag full of vegetables, 5 kg potato, 2.5 kg onion. It was too heavy. I had to change the bag from one hand to the other to balance its weight and get some relief. All of a sudden, one handle of my bag was broken; bag fell down on the ground with few packets of vegetables spilled out of bag. Luckily, I had another bag which graciously accommodated the entire materials comfortably.

For the purchase of 25 kg rice bag, I was standing in a grocery shop. Since, it was March, the colour festival of Holi was after three days, there was heavy rush in the shop.

All of a sudden, a small balloon full of water struck my back. It was ruptured causing watery effect on my shirt. I watched above, few boys were engaged in doing rehearsal of Holi festival.  Seeing my condition, few others around me expressed annoyance to those boys. I had to smile and take all these very easy, shop man immediately responded after the incidence because of some gathering around me. I said aloud, “I want 25 kg Srinath brand rice bag which I used to take from your shop, but you’ve to arrange some means to drop it up to my car parking place.”

Normally, the shop man had always arranged some bicycle to carry the rice bag up to my car on every previous occasion.

“Today, it may not be possible as no bicycle is available. In festival all are busy in some activities for earning. But, I’ll arrange some rickshaw for carrying the rice bag up to your car,” said the shop man, and I agreed.

The road was very congested due to big crowd at the market place, business was at pick. Many temporary shops selling holi items like colours, abhir-gulal, pichkari, fancy caps etc. were operational in front of the permanent shops, causing great inconvenience to buyers. Even after a long wait, no rickshaw puller was ready to do this job. Rickshaw pullers were reluctant to take up the job because distance from that shop to my car was short, for which rickshaw puller might not earn a good amount. Hence, none was showing interest.

After a gap, I saw a rickshaw puller nearing towards the shop. The shop man with movements of hand indicated him about his intention.  The rickshaw puller understood everything and positioned his rickshaw in correct direction.

I tried to make him understand the exact location.  “Sir, pl. sit down, I’m putting your rice and vegetable bags safely in the rickshaw. I’ll drop you wherever you wish,” said the rickshaw puller.

He was very calm, unhesitant and courteous.  He even didn’t talk about his charges for the service.

I sat on the rickshaw after a long gap. It was altogether a different experience to enjoy rickshaw ride in the most crowded place. The rickshaw puller was pulling the rickshaw very carefully giving enough passage to car, bicycles, bulls and pedestrians. Sometimes, he was also using his voice along with the horn for clearing the path.

After small left, right and then left movement, I interrupted the rickshaw puller by saying, ‘Here is my car, stop here …please.’

He stopped and I got down, and opened the car dicky.  The Rickshaw puller carefully kept the bags there. I extended my hand with 20 rupees towards him. He took it with gentle smile. His smile was so impressive that I could not restrain myself from having words with him.

I could recognize that this man must be from Bihar. Hence, without any suspicion, I said, ‘You’re from which district of Bihar?’

He turned around. ‘Sirji, I’m from Darbhanga district.’ He said. 

It was 9.25 PM. Since it was winter cold breeze was blowing causing some discomfort for us.  In winter, by this time, roads were mostly empty, few movement here and there, but stray dogs were very active as they knew their responsibilities of night hours.

The way he responded, showing all humane sense of touch, I had to ask further, “How long have you been in Delhi and doing this profession?’

The story continued here.....