It was back in the monsoons of the year 2003. I was just a school passout. Back then as a student we didn’t have the luxury of having a car or a bike to go somewhere.
It was pouring heavily. Time: Around 7 A.M. in the morning. I had to board an early bus to somewhere. With a double protection of an umbrella and a rain-coat and I was waiting for some “means” to reach the bus-stop.
It was then, I saw a ‘rikshaw-waalah’ passing by. As the usual ‘process’ in India is – I gave a shout ‘RIKSHAAA’ (rickshaw…called loud). The rickshaw stopped and I boarded it.
Moments passed by and suddenly I saw a small polythene pouch falling off the ‘rickshaw waalah’, For a few moments I completely ignored what I saw.
May be because I was a kid.. May be I was not THAT wise back then Or may be because I just thought that it *JUST* might be his “beedi-pack” (Indian cigarette) / ‘tambaku-pack’ (chewing-tobacco). Anyways the fact is that I chose to ignore it.
A few moments later – I don’t know what, but there was ‘something’ – that forced me to say ‘oo bhaiya tumhaari jeb se kuch gir gaya hai peechey’ (Hey brother – something fell off from your pocket back there).
He quickly felt his pocket and braked the rickshaw hard. He just asked ‘kahan?’ (where?). I just pointed towards rear. He left the rickshaw and started running back, Fortunately – after a small search – he managed to find the ‘polythene-pouch’ floating on a puddle of water.
He came back running with a smile on his face and started touching my feet!! I was taken aback and asked him as to what was that all about. What he said back then still haunts me.
Bhaiyaji ye mere pichle poore hafte ki kamayi thi, agar ghum ho jaati to baniya is hafte ka ration nahi deta, Fir khuda hi jaanta hai apne ghar waalo ka pet kaise paalta.
(Brother this packet had all the earnings of my last week. If I would have lost it – I would not have been able to pay the shop-keeper for this week’s groceries. Then God knows how would I have managed to help my family survive this week without food.)
I was almost in tears listening to him and realizing how big a mistake I was (unknowingly) about to commit by not telling him about the fallen pouch! Next – the man started riding the rickshaw and a few moments later he asked me – “bhaiyaji chai piyoge? Meri taraf se?”
(Brother – Will you have some tea? I ‘ll buy you one?) I just said a polite ‘NO’. The guy insisted again. Probably a cup of tea was the best thanks note that he could have offered me in that heavy down-pour. No?
But this man was hell bent upon to do something good for me. So, when we reached the bus-stop – he refused to charge me for the ride. A small incident – but i still clearly remember this conversation which had so many hidden things in it if you dig-in.
1. The state of people living hand-to-mouth.
2. The honest hard-work that this guy was putting in for his family’s survival
3. The big heart he had – to offer me a cup of tea/free ride just to express his gratitude.
4. Scenario wherein – I would not have told him about his fallen pouch?
Believe me i was full of thoughts when I left the scene.