Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Epic Speech

Today, in the evening few DU students came to conduct a survey on Rickshaw-wallas. They claimed to be doing it on behalf of Govt. of India! This exercise was part of their project at the end of which they would send their recommendations based on which the government will make welfare policies for us. Wow, finally the government talking some cognizance of the Rickshaw-wallas. Sounds so Utopian!

But this is just a frivolous introduction, the real stuff is the speech of this legendary rickshaw-walla whose name I don't know.

The ritual of form-filling was going on at its full swing when I reached the Metro station. I had no idea and hence I asked, "what's going on?" and what followed was this epic speech. He said -

It's some kind of a survey. What survey man... it's yet another attempt of the government to rob us poor of our livelihood (gareeb ke pet par laat). These people promise us a parking lot. hah... they will give us a parking lot! Bullsh*t. A similar survey was conducted a few years back promising us the world, they started the Campus-Special Bus instead! This time around, they would probably start Helicopters!

(Unlike U-special buses which ply on specific routes, the Campus-special is a circular bus service from Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station touching most of the colleges. It charges a flat fare of Rs 10 for any destination. It came into existence approximately 2 years back and has considerably eaten up the earnings of a rickshaw-walla)

They ask us how much do we earn. Now if we tell them honestly that we earn around Rs 400, the govt's eyes will go wide immediately. *a rickshaw-walla earns so much in a day* instead of doing something for us, the first thing they will do is "how to stop them from earning a respectable income, how to keep them in perennial poverty."

Aisa kyun? (The honesty and conviction with which he asked me that question was quite moving and that's why I put the words as it is instead of translating them. It means - why is it so?)

What have they got against a rickshaw-walla? Are we stealing or robbing somebody? Is earning an honest living a crime? This metro security guard beats us up?
Aisa kyun hota hai?

A man (i guess he said FAT!) gets down from the bus and screams "oye rickshaw" and the rickshaw-walla takes him on board. A bus drops him on the bus stand, Metro drops him at the Metro station but where does a rickshaw drops him? ... on the stairs of his house. If there were a way to take rickshaw from his stairs to his room, a rickshaw might well have dropped him on his bed! and yet people abuse a rickshaw-walla?
Kyun bhai?

When a person bleeds on the road, a car doesn't stop to help him. You call just once to a rickshaw-walla and he takes that guy to Hindu Rao Hospital (the nearest govt. hospital of that area). He doesn't charge you a fortune, even in case of extreme emergencies. He saves lives. And yet people have least amount of respect for us!
Aisa kyun?

He took a long pause when another colleague snapped, "ho gaya?" while pressing a button of his mobile phone. He was apparently recording his speech! Worth recording indeed. Everybody burst into laughter.

You know what I want to ask the government? I want to ask, "why this distance sir? why this indirect path?" Survey...delay...recommendations....more delay... committees formed....eternal delay.
You hold MCD elections, you hold Assembly elections, for what? If you really care, just send down that representative to listen to us. We will not only let him know our ailment but the medicine to cure it as well. We don't expect to get the exact dosage but the suffering would certainly subside even if half of the prescription is met.

But please don't pull this wool of survey over our eyes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Homecoming of a Rickshaw-walla!

Who says courts only prolong matters? Sometimes, they expedite them as well although these are "Rarest of the rare" occasions!

Today I had to go against my will to Dwarka distt. courts as part of a family land-dispute case (dont worry I havn't filed a case against my dad for my share! :P ). I have realized that courts are like your best friends. They don't give a s**t when you are hanging around with them but they miss you a lot when you are not not there. So much so that they issue warrants, sometimes non-bailable, to fetch you!

At 10AM I was at the court where I came face to face with my mom - first time since the news broke of me being a rickshaw-walla 4 days ago.
She asked me to explain. I declined (as I believed there was nothing to explain beyond the Navbharat Times news-report.
She persisted with some emotional-atyaachaar (main teri maa hoon, agar mujhe nahin samjhaayega to kise samjhaayega? et al)
I tried to explain. she didn't understand... once...twice. I gave up.
She asked me to explain once more - my motive, my objective, my aspirations.
I tried again. finally some ice was broken, some dark clouds were scattered.
it turned out that she was particularly miffed for two reasons -
1) she didn't know until when this 'experiment' will continue. the report didn't mention that "I hope to end it by November"!
2) the report mentioned "Girls in DU ask me that I don't look like a rickshaw-walla", alluding as if only girls ask me that ...further alluding that I am doing it to score some brownie points with girls ! ;)

The court hearing was over with the usual practice of giving another date and my mom said, "tu ek baar aa to sahi ghar" (which sent chill down my spine). I asked her to explain what she meant. She didn't.

Interestingly, my Dad was quite chilled out all this while, In fact, he hasn't even once asked me what the F*** I was doing and why. While returning from court my mom noticed my cracked heels n lumped feet and said to my dad "look what he has done to his feet" and he said, "so what?" ! hahhaha... that was awesome! I guess I should gift him a bottle of Heinekin ! ;)

Nevertheless, I picked my cycle (whom I missed the most) from the parking of the metro station and went home. I wasn't asked any further question, not locked up in a dark room nor thrashed with a wet chappal ! :P
On the contrary, I was give a sumptuous lunch! for someone who had to borrow money this morning to buy even a Parle G (not exaggerating even an iota), that was pure bliss. The party didn't end there.

I slept for three hours (although I intend to sleep only 30 minutes!) in a cushy bed, with a soft furry blanket and a pillow... yes, a pillow and not my bag stuffed with worn clothes! trust me, a pillow is a luxury. Infact, planning commission would come up with far saner policies based on "Pillow-line" rather than poverty line!

I was home and I was doing what I do best - screw up my time on Facebook! also, read random stuff online and occasionally write a blog. I was back to the world to which I had practically said goodbye for good. In fact, I made some initial investments (which swallowed all my savings) for my new life - a towel (Rs 40), a tooth brush (11), a toothpaste (10), a soap (10), washing powder sachet (2), and a makeup kit (Rs 5 vaseline!). In the coming days, I was planning to buy some Lux Cozis (or even anonymous ones from the roadside vendor) instead of Jockeys and that was cringing my heart (and something else as well!) the most!

I was also preparing myself to bathe with ultra-cold water for the rest of the winters. (although not bathing for most of the season was a partial solution). In fact, I never knew I was such a meticulous planner before these three & a half days. I was making lists, balancing my needs (not wants) with my resources. I was planning ahead...weeks ahead. Although, all the three days I ended up a nillionaire !

Sadly, all that futuristic planning has now gone down the drain. I am back to my home. a place which looks too plush to me now. 3 months back, I would have made a million excuses to dissuade you from visiting it!

So, it was the homecoming of a rickshaw-walla after only 3 & a 1/2 days of 'Vanvaas' (or RainBsera Vaas as my friend puts it)! Should we light some lamps or burn some firecrackers to celebrate? Naah, chuck it. Lets go green! ;)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Being a "Celebrity" - effects & side-effects

the Internet charges are too steep here so I have to write it quickly, So apologies for some not-up-to-the-mark blogpost this time. (As if I was writing literary masterpieces earlier!)

I was in Chandigarh when I received the call from my Mom with the opening words, "Chandigarh main bhi rickshaw chala raha hai?". I couldn't say anything, I was just laughing. But she wasn't amused at all. She followed it up with "Achi bhat piti hai hamari". I dont know how to translate those words but a close-enough meaning is - "you have demeaned us to no extent". I wasn't surprised though; the blast was impending. 

But her call was quite late in the evening, the string of calls started right in the morning. With every call I was faced with the dilemma - to pick or not to pick ... cuz I was in Roaming and my balance was low ! But I guess price of coming out as arrogant was higher that the price of the call, so I picked.

I was back in Delhi the next morning at 6:30 and I was on the job at 7:30. on other days, I would have earned handsomely if I had come that early but alas.... it was Sunday that day!

I was on my way to the garage, barely outside the Metro station, when I noticed a beautiful girl staring at me! If the matter was restricted to just staring, I might not have noticed... I look weird enough to be stared! But she was smiling too; that was startling! So I asked her, "do we know each other?" and she said, "I read the article about you in NBT". She introduced herself and when I introduced myself, she said, "I know"!!!!

Wherever I went - the garage, the metro station,Kamla Nagar, Girls Hostel, Stephens college gate, Gwyer Hall Canteen, Ande-walla ...... the article followed. If nothing else, I realized the readership of NBT yesterday!

But I was in no mood to go home that day, courtesy that candid talk with my mom yesterday. So I was desperately searching for a place to stay. My friend at Model town was out of station and my current garage wasn't as cozy as my previous one, so sleeping under the sky wasn't an option.

I once saw a "Rainbasera" (a place where destitutes can stay at nominal price) in Kamla Nagar but was utterly dissapointed to see a big lock on its gate. But from there I came to know about another one in Malkaganj. The information was right and in Kabir Basti, Malkaganj, I did find one.

Afte spotting my refuge, I was going back to my garage to park my rickshaw when I spotted a little boy walking beside me with a piece of paper. He said, "I am reading about you". I was able to make sense of what he was saying when looked at the paper-cutting with my photo. It was simply an awesome feeling. I asked the boy to sit in my rickshaw and read the story for me since I hadn't seen it myself. He read it for a while and then got off the rickshaw bidding adieu. Wow, if start of the day was bright, then the end of the day was probably brighter than Diwali!

The Experience of spending a night at "Raibasera" is a story in itself so I shall share that with you in a separate post.

but the next morning (ie today) I got a call from my mom again. She asked my location .... exact location (I am not sure if she could track me via GPS!).
"Hindu College"
"you are still pulling the rickshaw!"
"yes mom, that's what I do, I am sure u know it by now"
"why? couldn't you find any other job"
"if you are still not clear why I am doing this after reading that article, I don't know how to answer your why"
"us article se to tune hamara mazak banaya hai" (you have only humiliated us through that article)

I am totally disillusioned now. Facing a dilemma again - to return or not return to a place where people feel humiliated because of me.