Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 1: The day of exploitation ( continued...)

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If there were a game of Darts in which hitting anywhere on the board had points except the bull’s eye, I was hitting the bull’s eye! There were students all around me; there were rickshaws loaded with sawaris plying all aroung me and yet I wasn't able to woo a single person. This was insane. I felt as if getting a customer was tougher than picking up a girl!

Dejected, I headed towards the University’s Metro station like a guided missile. Despite being an atheist, I believe that the Metro Station is the ultimate Messiah. You trust in him, surrender yourself under his refuge and he will ressurect you. But it’s still not a cakewalk. The Metro station only helps those who help themselves!

It’s a very competetive world out there. At the prime time, i.e. 8:30AM till 11AM you can easily find more than hundred rickshaws parked outside the station. And unlike in front of colleges where the rickshaw-wallas patiently wait in a line for their turn, there is no such discipline there. It’s utter chaos and cut throat competition.

The scene at the metro station reminds me of the Great Salmon Migration which you might have seen on Discovery channel. Each year, Salmons migrate upstream to lay eggs. At some places, they have to jump out of the river to go further up and that’s where the Grizzly Bears catch them mid air. It all depends on the skill and the risk-taking abilities of the Bear how many he can grab in his jaws.

When the train arrives and the students come out of the station in droves (mostly girls, I don't know why), most of the rickshaw guys keep waiting for them outside the station gates but few go inside the station to ‘catch the fish mid-air’. It is these skilled Bears who get the maximum reward. But it’s risky too. You can become a victim of the ‘danda’ or a slap of the metro security guards. Its simple, More the risk, more the reward.

After waiting for more than 30 minutes, a suave guy with a trendy girl approached me. The guy said, “Hindu college” and I said, in a disbelief, “chaliye” (let’s go!). My colleagues who were returning to the station quipped, “aakir mil gayi sawari!” (finally you got a customer!)

I must tell you that it’s one thing to pedal an empty rickshaw, quite the other to lug it with 2 ‘healthy’ people. At times your thigh muscles give up and you have to rely on your weight and shoulder strenght to push the ‘adamant’ pedal down. Somehow, Hindu college arrived and that’s how I earned my first 20 Rupees. (I thought I deserved atleast Rs 50 for this ardous job!) It’s sad that I don’t know the names of my first customers but then how does it matter. What’s there in a name, said Shakespeare.

Once the jinx was broken, new sawaris were easy to come. At Gwyer hall canteen I had my brunch. (I had my breakfast at home already). Their usual rate for one bowl Chhole/rajma is Rs 15 but for Rickshaw-wallas they give 2 Paranthas and half bowl chole for Rs 20. However, I was denied this concession! I had a good food-chat with a D-school management student who asked me what I do. I was gagged. In my moments of weakness, I had to resort to something that I used to do 2 months back. I shouldn't have.

I noticed that beyond kamla Nagar, the carefree students or the shopppers with high disposable income suddenly vanish. All you come across is the working class who is as thrifty with his money as you are.

At ‘Barf khana’ came an old couple who asked me to go to a particular place for Rs 10. Other rickshawallas had refused to take anything below 20. I was in a dilemma. I wanted to help them but Rs 10 was too less a price. In a decision I am not really proud of, I declined them too.

Few days back, a hospital, took a 3 day old baby off the incubator when his father failed to pay the hospital bills. The baby died. Was my act somewhat similar to the act of that hospital? I don’t know. I guess, Philanthropy and business don't generally go hand in hand.

Anyways, I had come so far from the university that I was sure that I will take a sawari only in the direction of the campus. But when a middle aged man asked me if I would go to GB Road, I don’t know what made me to say YES! Probably I was spellbound by the name! For someone who is riding a rickshaw for the first time, it’s a hell of a ride. The roads are so narrow and the traffic is so heavy that you are bound to edge a car or a person next to you. I was fortunate enough to edge both and still get away with it! For a sum as meagre as Rs 25 (the man claimed that he gave me Rs 5 extra!) this ride was an utter torture!

From GB Road to Tis Hazari to Majnu ka Tila, everybody just tried (and succeeded) to fleece me. But it’s laughable and ironical that I am using such strong words for those people. I was no different from them just a day earlier, a fleecer! Probably it’s the effect of being on ‘the other side of the fence’.

Anyways, I somehow reached the garage by 7PM, paid the rent (Rs 45) to the owner, took a rickshaw to the metro station (after waiting for 30 min at the bus-stand) and ate a steamed sweet-corn. At the end of this lavish expenditure, I was left with NOTHING. Yes, whatever I earned slogging the entire day, I blew it up in 20 minutes. Rs 30 on water and Rs 20 on the rickshaw pinched the most. My very first ‘for-profit’ business venture turned out to be a ‘No-profit-no-loss’ enterprise the very first day!

When I was eating the corn cob outside the metro-station, a colleage, who still didn’t know me came to me and asked, “Sir Rickshaw?” while the one who knew me smiled, and so did I.


  1. Curious. What do you wear when you're out on the saddle?

    1. a shirt/t-shirt which i consider not to b too flashy, a 3/4th or pyjama and chappals!

  2. "Philanthropy and business don't generally go hand in hand." Some things are learned the hard way.. Started reading ur blog... its very intrsting xperience..