While hopping across the highway may not be conducive to living long, it does make you feel all youthful and agile. Particularly if you are like me, at the tricky age, taking a breath after the scramble up the stairs, standing on the ledge, looking down, your bottom anticipating the scrape of the metal slide and the soft thump in the mud down below. The scramble back towards the steps, pushing other children aside, may or may not be possible, depending on your particular beliefs.
Oh OK, I’m not that old. Fatuousness aside, I did manage to avoid a car turning left and leap into a rickshaw just before the signal turned green. I mumbled my address and thought about dinner. A babbling evening with Pu and little Tee makes one hungry.
A few minutes later, I shrilled, “No, no, bhaiya, under the bridge.”
The rickshaw-wala swerved. I said, “Take a right at the signal.”
He said, “I know the way. I was just preoccupied, so I missed the fly-over.” I grunted.
He continued, “I’m just so worried. I’m not thinking properly.”
I thought, “He’s going to ask me for money now.” I was surprised. I’ve never had a rickshaw-wala giving me a sob story in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land, for money before.
I thought of Dubious Moves, who has managed to remain unidentified, at least by me, even on FaceBook, but who shares some stories intermittently with me, and decided, “Well, if he asks me for money, I’ll give him what I can. It’s not as if I don’t have enough.”
The rickshaw-wala however sped along the highway with his story, not waiting for my thoughts to catch up. He said, “The thing is my mother is ill in the village. I have to bring her here. I earn enough, I can earn 20-25000 rupees a month if I work hard, but I don’t have a house of my own, I live on rent. So I went to my uncle and aunt who live here. I said I will give you whatever money it takes for her medicine, her food, 10000, 15000. I can earn it. I’ll do everything. Just let her stay with you. But my aunt refused. I am so upset.”
I made a sympathetic noise. He said, “I was so sure my uncle would refuse the money. He would say, just pay for her medicine. He would keep her. But my aunt refused.” Sympathetic noise, yet again from me.
He said, “I used to work at a stationery store in Jogeshwari. My uncle’s children, from KG to Xth, I never let them buy note books, compass box, pencils, pens. I said to my aunt, they look on me as a big brother, if I give them some stationery worth 500, 600 rupees, what does it matter? My store earned something, I got some discount, it was fine. Now she said no. My mind refuses to believe that. Someone I thought was mine, they did this to me.”
I said, “Yes, you feel hurt.”
He said, “I feel hurt. But I thought I am not going to feel hurt. Anyone else in my place would have told her, I’ll never see your face again. I said, thanks, ok, let me know if you need anything and left. I’m not going to stop seeing them. I thought if I did not have money, maybe they would have felt, he is saying he will pay, but will not pay. But I work hard. I have managed to buy my own rickshaw. Now they say something like this to me, I think I’ll find a way, God will find a way.”
I say, “I am sure you will.”
He says, “It was not worth working for someone else, give 20000, 25000 deposit, it’s better to have your own rickshaw.”
I said, “Turn into that gate. How much?”
He said, “20 rupees.”
I handed the money to him, and said, “May everything go well with you.”
He said, “Thank you, ok then, I’ll leave.”
In the lift I thought, “I didn’t get to try out my baby step towards generosity. Another time, Extraordinary Gentleman.”