There’s this old man who drives his rickshaw in my neighbourhood. He parks his vehicle right outside the gates of the apartment blocks I live in.
He’s got a kind face, a very polite demeanor and the man is really old, must be pushing 60 — not an age when one should be driving a rickshaw for a living. But that’s our country.
I always take his rickshaw if he is around whenever I have to go to the metro station or anywhere in the neighbourhood and don’t feel like walking.
It may sound a bit pompous but I have often found myself dropping my plan to walk to the neighbourhood market on my off day to help him earn ten bucks more for the day.
Sometimes I feel his wrinkle-ravaged, weather-beaten face sports a knowing smile that says I know what you’re up to boy, thanks for the charity!
But recently, he returned my “favours” and to some extent my faith in humanity.
I was in a hurry and got on to his rickshaw to meet a friend. Normally, I check my wallet before leaving home but that day I forgot.
When I got off his rickshaw my heart sank when I saw the empty wallet — it didn’t have a single penny except for some foreign coins.
The old man read my dilemma on my face and said, “Koi baat nahi saab hota hai. Baad mein de dijiyega.” I thanked him profusely and just as I was about to walk away he did something that I will never forget.
The old man took out a hundred rupee note along with some soiled teners — perhaps his entire earning of the day — and said, “Ye sau rupaye rakh lo saab khali haath mat jao.”
Despite my assurance that i would take out money from an ATM on the way he insisted that I take the money saying what if the ATM didn’t function.
I was overwhelmed by the gesture but a mixture of embarrassment and ego stopped me from borrowing money from a rickshawwalah.
A few days later while returning the fare I wanted to give him an extra ten bucks, but he politely refused and just took what was due for that day’s ride.
It takes a lot for them to be honest and giving compared to people like us who earn in a single day what they earn in a month.
Which is why I don’t grudge the autowallah who borrowed a thousand bucks from me and disappeared.
When I wrote Waiting for Godot a few months ago, I didn’t know that Godot will return one day in the form of a rickshaw walah to return some of the faith I have lost in humanity.