My Stranger!!!

This is relatively a very insignificant incident that happened to me, compared to all other things that keep us occupied. These things could be like the near impossible deadline your boss might have set you, failing which he would happily slit your throat and cook your intestines for dinner or how you came across this hot chick at Satyam cinemas and how her numbers have not let you sleep for the last one week, loans, credit cards, job, girlfriends, kids and the whole banquet of immediate issues that might be facing you.
But still this incident hit me pretty hard today almost three years after, I can clearly remember him.
I was in Lucknow then and working with Tata Motors and among all other modes of transportation THE CYCLE RICKSHAW is still quite in use there. And a lot of people in here still use it. But that in no way is linked to the prosperity of the rickshaw puller. A typical rickshaw puller’s uniform is a torn trousers, (he could it have easily sold it outside Taj Mahal to some foreign tourist, who would have bought it for it’s antique value for around a grand) held to his hip with a string. And he had a typical Salman Khan type shirt clearly showing off his bones and beedi body(not his choice, he usually does not have any at all).

So on this fateful day after my work I get dropped at a place called Polytecnic Chowk by the bus and from there my hotel is around 6.4 kilometers.(I checked that on my E72 with GPS navigation and Google maps enabled). And as usual I get a rickshaw to drop me at the hotel. And one typical practice I picked up from my childhood days from  my middle class parents was of bargaining. No matter how reasonable the price is I cannot control this urge of mine to get a discount on it or at least try my luck at it. And even a rupee saved gives me quite a satisfaction. Because of late I have started believing in myself to be the savior of the oppressed and suppressed of the  by mindless capitalism, so i am fighting inflation with my one rupee coins 😉 ( Saving myself change..).

Coming back to the incident, this rickshaw puller was the only guy at the chowk on this fateful day. And now as i decide to hire him, he tells me that the cost of travel is 20 rupees which is quite reasonable, considering the fact that in the past 5 days I have made the same trip is has not costed me any less. But as usual, the moment I hear the astonishing figure of 20 rupees the savior and the fighter in me is aroused and to accept his terms and price without a fight, without a bargain would be such a shame, such a disgrace, with this fight-less defeat  how would I ever face myself in the mirror. So I decide to stand up and fight, and as I always do, this time too I win. Liberating my country yet again from spine breaking inflation, I save 4 rupees. The cost of this resource has been re worked to 16 rupees. And feeling in me is absolute elation at the victory.

A bus would have been a lot cheaper, but I have always believed that if you are new to a place and want to explore it get the slowest possible mode. And with this rickshaw I don’t have to share my seat, nobody bumps into me and the best part is for this ride of 6.4km I am his lord, his savior  and this feeling can be quite addictive. Once on the rickshaw, I take my newly bought E72 with GPS navigation and Google maps and connect with GPRS and start verifying the maps. I verify each turn & my current location and frankly speaking this device worth 19k is absolutely worth it.(the other day my friend Shyam was trying to prove that his 3mp camera was better than my 5mp camera and another friend Ganesh tried to tell me, I should have bought a touch screen phone. But all that and I am now happy typing this story on my qwerty key pad. Shyam this is for you da 😉 . But I was also thinking i could save one more rupee. B’cos if I give the rickshaw puller 15 rupees and tell him I don’t have any more change and all I am left is a 100 rupee note he will not bother to about the change and so I can try saving a total of 5 rupees. So as my hotel approaches I am getting excited about implementing my strategy.  Ok here comes my hotel and wow at this place in Gomati Nagar there is no dearth of chicks, all kinds, cute, dumb, smart, good assets, mind blowing assets, and all those. And may be I’ll talk to her today. And the speed breaker reminds me to get down to get my daily dose of Dairymilk and walk to the hotel and of course implementing my strategy  All I have to do is get down check my wallet take out exactly 15 rupees and keep checking my wallet for some more time and finally announce that I don’t have any more change and he will definitely back out.

I get down at the shop, that chick with that cute smile and spect’s is still there and now the plan, I take my wallet out check for money, I have all my plastic intact, Citibank, ICICI, HDFC, pan card, old bills, axis bank, debit cards, credit cards.. Money?????? Oh shit.. I forgot to top it up. Yesterday I bought my ticket to Delhi and came home late without anything in my pocket. All I am now left with is two one rupee coins. But how would this rickshaw puller understand all this. And oh shit man that chick is still there… Ok ok… But what?? Idea…. idea… I dont have anything in the hotel either… !!!

Ok nothing else I can possibly do… Walk up close to the rickshaw puller … almost whispering into his ears, told him I had no money…that was a pretty long stare into his face.. He had all the right to take that big brick from the road and hit me on my head. And hit me hard. For all the bargaining I did, and the trip was pretty taxing on him due. And think about pedaling 6.4 kilometers up hill with a 100 kg dead weight.

This rickshaw puller is not like us. Spending 80 rupees on cream whipped coffee or eating tiger prawns for snacks. For him his daily income is hardly 250 rupees on an average out of which 30 rupees he has to pay the rickshaw owner, he has to pay some thing to the police who know where he parks his rickshaw every night and who promptly come and collect their daily salary from him typically 25 rupees. He has to send some money home for his wife and kids. And all the luxury he has is if the collection is good he will have his tea with malai and may be smoke some weed before he goes to sleep after dinner.

So the 20 rupees for him would have meant a lot, I guess.

But as I kept my wallet open so that he could clearly see there was no money inside and he took a peep into my wallet and all the plastic in it and he looked at me and said “koi baath nahin bhaiyaa phir mile tho de dena ( never mind bro’ give it to me if we meet later” . And he kept moving. I am sure he was well aware we might never meet again.  He did not turn back to look at me, he did not make faces, the expression on his face was not that could have offended or embarrassed anybody. There in face was no expression at all. He did it all so effortlessly, I was hit and it hurt me.

May be he should have asked me his money. May be he should have shouted or should have done anything. Never has anybody had this impact on me.

How times does it happen that a complete stranger has rescued you from a typical situation. And how many times have we acted selflessly?

PS: this is a pretty old incident & something similar hapenned to me recently, bringing back to me this particular memory


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