you work to pay


At the signal, he swerved the rickshaw to the extreme left to avoid a pothole on the road. He then had to honk at the pedestrians standing on the left, and cut across a line of people, to take the left turn. The pedestrians had to shuffle to make way for him. One of them shouted out a word of abuse at him.

Once he was on the highway, he said, “It’s become bekaar to drive now.”

I said, “Yes. There is too much traffic, the roads are so bad.”

He said, “Now there are going to be cameras at every signal. It has become more strict. Even if you escape, they will catch you sooner or later. Now it will be on camera.”

He explained, “I had to go to the left to avoid the khadda. That man abused me. If I had been late by a second, and missed the signal, you would have shouted at me, everyone has crossed, why haven’t you? As I crossed, the signal turned red. If I had got caught, I would have to pay a fine. The fine is 100, 200 Rs. But the police will ask for 2000.”

I asked naively, “Why? Why should you have to pay 2000?”

He said, “You can’t ask why. In the government, there is no why, what, how. There is only payment. If you don’t pay, they will say, OK, keep your rickshaw here, come and show us all your papers, then take the rickshaw back. They will ask you for each and every paper, from your birth certificate to your astrological chart.”

I said, “You will waste a day.”

He said, “You may waste a day, you may waste a month. Who can say? In government, you just pay. All these rules are there only for them to make more money.”

I said, “It’s very difficult to live in Bombay, now.”

He said, “What to do? There is money here, so we think, fine, we will pay a little, but we earn. In the village, there is no money, people die. They make the working person pay, to be able to live in palaces.”


  1. grim but very nicely written little dialogue. Thanks Banno.
    I come here often (being registered on your blog) to read what you say, but I don’t always drop a line to say thank you.

    • Thanks, Tin Roof Press. By the way, I thought your NYE masks were fabulous. I loved both the red and the silver, but 8 GBP!🙂

    • Yes, Dipali. The rickshaw wala was quite matter-of-fact though. And I felt guilty for all the times I have shouted at rickshaw walas for not crossing the signal in time.😦

  2. It’s the same everywhere. Just different levels I suppose.:/
    In some way or the other, they will charge more. Legal or illegal.
    The only thing to do is to earn more, so you are hurt less.
    Of course, I don’t in any way condone paying off the cops, but I understand his POV.

  3. okay… just read the above comment, and it doesn’t seem very coherent. I was thinking several things… like the news article I read today morning about a price hike here, which led me to think that govts charge more here and make it a “legal” thing. Which is what I meant by “legal and illegal”🙂

  4. Sanjana, No, it does make sense. A friend once told me, long, long ago, that in India, one was compelled to earn more, because you had to pay for even the most basic things like dignity, respect, life, health, hygeine. Where the charges are legal, at least the basic quality of life for most individuals is assured.

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