Friday, September 21, 2012

The 'Night life'

After being a semi-rickshaw-walla for eight days I decided go the whole hog. It was time to be a rickshaw-walla in the night as well. May be it was time to go further beyond my new-found comfort zone.

Most of my rickshaw-friends don't live in a room; they sleep at the Garage under the sky. Although the room rent ranges from Rs 1.5-2 K in places like Chandrawal and Majnu ka Tila, it attracts many more expenditures like electricity, water, LPG/kerosene etc. These expenses eat up almost the entire savings despite the fact that one room is often shared by 6-8 people which often swells up to 10! (Do I need to give the dimentional specifications of the room?)

Usually I wrap up around 6:30 PM in order to reach home by 9:30 – 10 PM but My intentions were different today. So, at 6:30, I informed my Mom abt my plans of 'no-return'!

After waiting at Kamla Nagar for good 45 minutes in the hope of a ‘sawari’, which never came (becuse it was Bharat-Bandh that day which slashed the earnings by 70-80% of most rickshaw-wallas, mine went into negative!), I left for Chandrawal to dine at 8:15 PM. This rustic, cramped and haphazard urban-village is just 200m away from the ‘Golden Arches’ of globalization! You will find a distinctive squalor in the narrow streets – Cow dung! Because there is at least a cow/buffalo in front of almost every house. The houses, by the way, are all cemented and mostly 3-4 storied. To maneuver rickshaw in these streets is a different challenge altogether.

Every business has its niche clientele and so do the two ‘half-star’ nameless hotels in Chandrawal. Their prime customers are Rickshaw-wallas and Daily Wagers. But if you think that these hotels serve only ‘dal-roti’, than you are wrong. They have all the sought-after non-veg delicacies - Chicken curry, mutton curry, buff, fish fry, fish curry, egg curry, Bota kaleji, siri etc. Eatable, non-poisonous and affordable! Taste depends on how tired you are. As my mom told me to stay away from eggs since Dashlakhan (a Jain festival) was on, I abide by her diktat; I ordered Bota Kaleji (Liver) for Rs 25!

These hotels typically hire small boys of age 7 to 10 years as 'waiters'. The kid who served me must be 10 if not less. There are no prizes for guessing his name - chchotu. He Serves food to every one along with another boy and also caters to the special demands of his hard-working but impolite customers.

Mumbaikers raised a huge hue and cry over the crackdown of Mr Dhoble, alleging him of stealing their night-life. In the name of night-life, all a rickshaw-walla gets is 1-2 hours; such is the crackdown of fatigue. These couple of hours are typically spent in chatting (everyone), smoking (most of them) and drinking (a few). The amount earned at the end of the day, the kind of customers one came across, tales of extracting money from an extra-smart customer, stories of their home-town and their next venture are generally the topics of conversation but in no time the talks go haywire, loaded with expletives.

By the time we reached the garage at 9:30 PM, most of the people had already slept and after an hour of this fun & profanity fest, it was time for the remaining few to hit the sack as well.

continued... (sleeping in the Spotlight!)

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