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. Theย  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.”


  1. Hm, seems to happen a lot in Bombay, happened to me twice, similar tales of woe.
    Last time the rickshaw driver was working overtime to make 20,000 rupees to put his mother through a stone removal surgery and hadn’t slept for two nights out of anxiety. Like a cheap 70s irony he was driving me to the India Fashion Week which is an exemplification of excess, in the face of which it’s hard not to empty out your wallet. Sometimes you wonder if it’s a con job and if you don’t offer any help you always wonder what if he really was just 5000 rupees short.

  2. Sick Mother!
    One has seen Leela Chitinis play coughing through movies, so much that one has become immune to it.
    And then few years back, my own mother was not keeping well and I far, far away. No, I don’t drive a rickshaw and it is not as if I didn’t have money to pay for her treatment. But the whole anxiety, the emotions going through one’s mind. The fear of losing someone dear, the anxiety, the pain, the feeling of duty. It brings one down to the earth.
    Why is a sick mother more emotionally laden than a sick father?

    Coming back to your story: I can feel what the poorr rickshaw driver is going through, though I understand his aunt as well.

    • Harvey, I don’t agree, I think anyone sick in the family, gets you back to earth with a thud. Yes, I could understand his aunt (in an urban sort of way), I don’t think it is easy to commit to taking in a sick person, specially given the tiny living spaces in Mumbai. But the rickshaw-wala of course, was really anxious.

    • Tin Roof Press, I wish you had heard the rickshaw-wala. He was anxious yet, but there was nothing sad about him. He was young and confident, and made me feel better about myself.

  3. The saddest thing is that when a certain section of society launches into a tale of this sort, my normal self seems to get replaced with a cynical ‘mate-if-you-think-i-am-a-gullible-sort-think-again’ personality. And at times this alter-ego of mine shames me so! Perhaps it is better to be gullible than to be shamed by my own cynicism.

    • Suja, perhaps you have been ‘conned’ too many times. But no, I think it’s better to be gullible. If you think about it, most of the ‘cons’ anyway are for so little, or at least what is so little, to us.

  4. Banno, I guess I prefer to err on the side of gullibility. If he is conning me, then, well, I’m sorry but that’s his issue, and he has to live with it – with the shame or lack thereof. If he’s not, then I have helped someone to the best of my ability. In this instance, I think you gave him just what he needed, Banno – a sympathetic ear. Sometimes that is as important as an overt gesture of generosity.

    • Anu, I think so too, that if someone is conning you, then it’s their issue, their conscience. As for the rickshaw-wala, all he asked from me was an ear. He didn’t give me a chance to practice any generosity.๐Ÿ™‚

  5. It may sound unbelievable, but I was almost moved to tears, really.
    I went back down memory lane to a rickshaw ride where the driver told me that he has a son and he’s desperate to keep him in school, but he didn’t have enough money for the monthly fees as he had to pay rent for the rickshaw. he asked me to help whatever way I could. I was going to my tuition classes, so I figured that firstly, my parents wouldn’t mind, secondly, even if I run outta money, my friends in class could lend me some. So barring the rickshaw fare, I think I gave him around 80 bucks (it’s nothing, but it’s all I had), and the man had a look of gratitude that’s not even describable.He noticed that I’d taken everything outta my wallet, so he asked me if I lived here, and when I said no, he told me to keep the extra cash cus I’d need to get home. It moved me, that incident, cus someone who had so less could still be understanding. And I try to imagine how hard it must’ve been for that man to ask a random kid passenger for help….saddening really.
    I had no intention of bragging or anything, just wanted to share my experience, especially since it relates to your post.

    If you had a few minutes, could you read a post of mine? And if you like it, could you please vote for it? I’d be most grateful, it’d mean a lot๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Glad that you were willing to help him, I would’ve done the same Banno. There is no way we can be sure if he was telling the truth, but I still feel we are not the ones to judge. And there is a saying in Hindi – ‘Thagne se thage jaana achchha hai’.. my maid conned me of 5000 rupees shortly after I got married. She borrowed the money and was never seen again. And I immediately became the butt of jokes for the entire family, the husband’s side that is. My parents can’t blame me really, they are far worse than me. That was one rare instance where I regretted my mindless charity, I felt so disgraced in the marital home.

    • Violet, I can imagine that. A newly wed woman, and careless with her money.๐Ÿ™‚ For a long time, I would hide the salaries I paid my help, because everyone at home, marital and my own, looked at me with doubt in their eyes, like ‘are you crazy, or what?’

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