Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Day in the life of a Rickshaw wala

‘You try not to concern yourself with other people’s lives or what other people are going thru, just so you will have plenty of time left to mull over your existence.’

The thought crossed my mind when I was riding on the back seat of a rickshaw breezing thru the clear, stark naked streets of Dombivli at 40 something km/h. It’s sad not to bother about the idiosyncrasies of the life of the rickshaw driver who sits just a couple feet away from you. What goes on thru his mind when he is driving? Does he think about existentialism? Does he feel nihilistic? Does he hope that this is all a bad dream & expects to wake up any moment now? Does he dream that his kid can one day see the classroom of a prestigious college from the inside? Does he think about the mechanic who toiled for 12 minutes trying to fix his rickshaw’s windshield, which he happens to look at, thru out the day? How about his hopes & aspirations? Did he believe as a kid that he could make a difference? Did he think he could do better? Does he feel life could have been better with some other set of choices? Does he believe that he is what his parent’s made him? Does he believe in anything other than just driving his rickshaw?

I want to YELL, “YES” to all that. But I know that I would be lying.

He doesn’t think when he drives. It must help him cope up with the fact that life’s not going to get any better at the age of 38. He knows his kid has to go to school so that he can learn & not be a rickshaw driver. He also realizes that he should have done what his kid is doing now, instead of just sitting it out with his half assed friends, who are so drowned into alcohol now that no rescue team could ever pull them out. He says, he drinks, but “only” occasionally, I want to believe that. He starts his day at 6 in the morning & ends it roughly around 10:30 in the night. His wife needs a new home for the family, but she doesn’t want to tell him & make him feel bad about himself. Apparently, he believes in Mutual Funds, Pension Funds & Life Insurance, which comprises of some of his investments. He says, “I am more worth to my family dead, than alive” & laughs with a tear in his eye. He wants a daughter, but he can’t afford to raise one. He went to night school when he was 28 & passed the SSC. Had to sacrifice his rickshaw driving & had ‘outsourced’ it to one of his friends. He hates solitude but loves to have a couple of minutes for himself during the day.

He was diagnosed with a heart disease common for guys having a lot of cholesterol floating around in their veins, for which his friends contributed for. He eats responsibly now & avoids vada paav & misal paav for breakfast. He does think about the future & wants to see his son become an engineer. He is glad to see his son read & write & make a decent attempt in class to earn his marks. But he is sad to have not put him in an English school instead of a Municipal school.

What makes his life so special that he can’t miss it even for a moment, why not have a moment of peace for myself & think about something other than “ME”? Guess my circuits aren’t wired to cope up with my excessive vanity.

He doesn’t want to know my name, so that he doesn’t get attached to the passengers. He just wants to talk because he hates his own voice when he talks to himself.

He doesn’t know what calculus is, he doesn’t know who Karl Popper is, and he doesn’t want to know.

All he knows is that his new rickshaw has a 4-Stroke engine & it runs like the wind.

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