Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Happiest Day of My 'Career'

And you thought that the project was over! Well for me, yes but for you (if you care to read in the first place) it's not gonna end so soon. Because there are still a lot of experiences stored in my memory (surprising indeed!) and many more written in my little diary that I would like to share here.

But today, after a long long time (12 days to be precise) I would like to share a good news. In fact, I can easily anoint 12th Dec as the happiest day of my entire Ricikshaw-walla life, if not the entire life. I also realized that one must not give up the pursuit of happiness because some things have a habit of giving you a delayed gratification - in my case, the delay was by 12 days. And I was lucky to get it only when I egged on it.

I don't know how many times I have mentioned in my blogposts about the utter chaos one witnesses at the Vishwavidhyalaya Metro Station. Its an ideal place to make the worst opinion about a rickshaw-walla which sticks with you for a lifetime, tough to be overridden by any pleasant experience subsequently.

Ironically none of my rickshaw-friends like it, nor want to do this "aao-ji aao-ji" ritual but collectively they all are involved in it. Its like the current scenario of Indian Media. Ask any individual Media house about their  views on Paid News, Private treaties, Advertorials, Blackmailing, Editorial bias etc and they all banish it in the harshest possible manner but then it's also a mystery how a minister gets favorable coverage in Newspapers and TV channels before a major election despite embroiled in half a dozen corruption cases if not murder and rape, how some very pressing issues are suppressed while most other never make it to main-stream media!

As an ex-rickshaw-walla, I was catching up with all my friends and colleagues at my favorite adda - Gwyer Hall Hostel when this gentleman came. Its a shame that I don't know his name but taking into account his seniority and the profound knowledge, wisdom and experience he has, the name that comes to my mind is "Bhishma Pitamah". So let me call him Bhishma sir! :)

He enlightened me on the freak accident that happened two days back with a DU girl sitting in a rickshaw and the huge fuss in the morning between a Traffic Cop and the Metro Security Guard at the Station. But we soon digressed to our pet peeve - falling income and 'rule of the Jungle' at the Metro Station.

Its not that nothing has ever been done to bring some order among rickshaw pullers. Can't say much about the measures taken since the inception but a lot of attempts have been made during my own 'tenure'- by metro security guards, by traffic cops, by local Police (and once by me as well). But the status quo never changed and even if it did for a while under the force of a 'danda', it quickly regained its dubious equilibrium.

But today was a different day. There was no external force but and internal resolve to change. Championed by one of their own men - very sensible and highly respected! My presence, probably acted as a catalyst (if anything at all) for this 'endothermic' reaction. An endothermic reaction consumes heat and cools down its surrounding!

One of the most prominent feature (if not a cornerstone) of Democracy is - equal opportunity for everyone to do or aspire anything. In this respect, Metro station is not a very democratic place. The Campus-special buses are the first among equals. The entire width of the exit gate is panned by the bus while the rickshaws are relegated far away from the gates whenever line system is cracked down with brute force. Otherwise the rickshaws are simply juxtaposed with the buses creating the much-talked-about chaos and leaving almost no space for a person to go across the road.

So once 'Bhishma' sir sold the idea to his colleagues and got them on-board I went ahead and talked with the Bus Driver. It was one of the most sensible talks I ever had with a bus driver. We hardly disagreed with each other's opinions. He welcomed the idea of a disciplined line and agreed "in-principle" to my request to halt the bus only till middle of the exit gate and leaving the other half free for people. The deal was sealed when the Manger of this Special Bus service also agreed over the phone to my request! I gave a personal guarantee that the extra space thus created wont be cluttered by more rickshaws bringing everything back to square one.

The rickshaw line started from the other end of the gate giving them a fighting chance to be spotted along with the Bus and the Auto the moment a person comes out of the gate. Now it's the person's prerogative which one does he chooses. An equal opportunity to all.

The metro security guard also volunteered to assist in the implementation of the newly conceptualized discipline. He monitored that the proper sequence is followed, the free space remains free and nobody enters the metro station to woo a customer leaving his rickshaw unmanned.

It was going great. The rickshaw-wallas were happy because they were getting customers without belittling themselves, the bus-wallas weren't complaining either and the people were smiling too because nobody was pouncing on them. Everybody had a last laugh! :)

But is that sufficient reason for me to call it the happiest day? NO.

The reason why it's the happiest day is - the experiment survived the test of the time! It came into existence at around 3 PM. But when I returned to the Metro station at around 6 PM, the system was still in place WITHOUT THE SUPERVISION OF THE GUARD! 3 hrs might not see long enough to you but trust me, it takes them just 3 seconds to return to their old ways. After all, that's their comfort zone! But everybody was still following the line and peacefully taking 'sawaris' as per their order.

This was unprecedented. A truly WOW moment for me. And that's why it's the happiest day of my entire rickshaw-walla career. A long cherished happiness which came long after my "retirement" !

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Final Day (hopefully not!)

Justin Timberlake's famous song from the album "Future Sex" - what goes around...comes around - is playing in my head right now which is occasionally shuffled with an equally awesome "Life in a Metro" song - Alvida.

Because, if everything goes according to the plan and promise, 30th November should be my last day of being a Rickshaw-walla! Its a very emotional moment in many respects and as it happens with most of the things in life, the wave of emotions are often very weak on the 'D day' but hit much harder and make you nostalgic long after the day has gone.

The only silver lining is that I am a horrible planner but the dark cloud is that I am not a good ditcher! I promised my mom on the day of my homecoming (21 Nov) that I will end this project by November end and now it would be very difficult to give up on her. I guess I need to talk about my plans with my parents. If they understand, I hope to write a similar blogpost without the bracketed words on the new year day. Inshallah!

Its very easy to tender resignation for a job which you do only for money, a job in which you complain burnouts despite sitting in an AC chamber the entire day, a job in which you celebrate weekends more than weekdays ... oh wait, i guess it's not easy, else 90% of India (if not world) would be jobless!

But its very hard to bid adieu a job which you took up because you wanted to do it. Where there was no external pressure but internal motivation. Where you even worked on Diwali because that's the best way you could find to celebrate the festival of lights!

Just like Diwali, I tried to make my final day special in all possible ways and to the extent my job allowed. Which means I couldn't hug or at least thank from the bottom of my heart each an every rickshaw-friend of mine for giving me these awesome three month because it would seem so weird. But I did make it a point to meet as many of my friends as possible and shake hands with them or at least do that patented salute - raising the right hand partially with a gentle nod of the head and ear-to-ear smile - from a distance while crisscrossing each-other while pulling the rickshaw.

I tried to reach early. This is exams season in DU, and the exams start by 9:30. Hence there is a mad rush of students from 8:45 to 9:15. I arrived at the metro station at 9 AM - like a drop in the ocean of students. But by the time I reached the garage, picked my rickshaw and reached the station again, it was 9:25 already. The ocean had dried up. The Metro station is very unforgiving - if you are late you are late. Aren't there pleasant ways to learn lessons on punctuality?

There was an Indo-German conference on semiconductors going on in 'Faculty of Arts'! Goes without saying that I wanted to attend it despite the grave risk involved of dying due to boredom! The security guard of Arts Faculty has some special regards for me so when he saw me, he shook hands with me, talked for a while and asked me to park my rickshaw in the vacant space next to the main gate. Of course it's not allowed. So I asked him, "would this put you in trouble?" To which he replied quirkily, "I will sort it out. If somebody will object, I will say, 'sahab aaye hain seminar attend karne'! (A gentleman has come to attend the seminar!)

Hours passed by. Light gave way to darkness and warmth gave in to unfriendly cold. My friends who still pull rickshaw in a shirt start feeling the chill by 5ish in the evening; more if they have to wait for a sawari because standing idle cools them down further. But something warm was also brewing alongside - a plan to celebrate my last day !

My best friend, Sanjay, knew that it was probably my last day, and hence readily agreed to this impromptu party plan. But before we could crystallize it, he had to leave for Indira Vihar (girls Hostel canteen) with a box of oranges for a meager sum of 30 Rupees. I was so infuriated that I thought I would slap that 'Honda city b**tard' for paying so low and Sanjay as well for accepting that money. He deserved Rs 50!

In the meantime I talked with Tomas - an exchange student from France, once my sawari and now a very good friend. It didn't took him long to offer me a beer when he learned that it was my last day. His hostel-mate Kishan from Bangladesh also joined us and an awesome 'threesome' was on!

But Sanjay hadn't dropped the plan and neither had I. So like a witch hopping clubs on Halloween night, I was hopping my own farewell parties on my last working day! But I wasn't complaining. I reached my friend's 'villa' at around 9 PM and he was already done with cooking rice. I must tell you that he is a very nice cook. Once I even asked him why doesn't he work in one of the hostel messes and he said, "the life there is very restricted, much like a prisoner!" Wow, I never thought rickshaw-pulling had that huge an advantage over a regular job. 'Freedom to work' should be made a fundamental right, I guess!

Not prolonging the climax further, I should tell you that we bought 1kg fish and had a sumptuous dinner. I simply love fish and to have it on my last day with my special rickshaw-friends was certainly a memorable experience.

Talking of climax, I recall that there are few condoms available in the market that come with the promise of giving you 'extra time'. I wonder if there is something available out there for me to prolong this 'climax' and give me some extra time!