Sunday, May 24, 2009

One Rainy Night

It was 6:30 p.m, on a Monday evening.
And, miraculously, I was done for the day.

I had a zillion things on my mind...
Packing for my trip, the next morning.
Last minute shopping.
A tete a tete with Amma, who, has newly discovered the joys of texting.
Storage of stuff.
A verbal night cap, with my best friend.

So many things to do.
So little time.

But, as, I grabbed my bags, muttering hurried good-byes, the skies above opened up, effectively arresting my departure.

I stood, watching the rain pelt the building.

Impatient as I was, I could not help, but, be entranced by the fury of the elements.
It must have been on a dark, stormy night like this, that the legend of the mighty Thor was born!!

30 minutes later, with the show still on, I was ready to consider other options.
Not, that there were very many. In fact, there was, just one.

The ubiquitous auto-rickshaw!

Not, the most sensible of ideas, on a stormy night, I confess.

But, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The truculent guard at the gate, who was enlisted to find me a rickshaw, must have thought, I had slipped over the edge of reason, and, was hurtling, at break-neck speed, towards absolute insanity.
However, hierarchy, forbade him from proffering, either, advice, or, protests.

A further 30 minutes later, and, I was still waiting.
It appeared that only, the very brave, or, the extremely foolish, would even consider plying his vehicle against the fury of the elements.

But, I was in luck.
A carriage, eventually, materialised.

For the second time that evening, I grabbed my bags, and, rushed out, madly yelling goodbye at anyone, who, chanced to look my way.

And, for the second time that evening, my departure was arrested...
By, a semi-soaked driver in khaki, who seemed to be draping the rickshaw in plastic!!!

A fool, or, a valiant???

As I debated the question, the man turned around with a broad smile.
" Madam, 5 minutes. I am tying these plastic sheets over the open sides, so that you will not be drenched."

A valiant, I firmly decided, as I hopped in.

Minutes later, I was encased within the plastic contraption, and, on my way.
Through broken, flooded roads, and, barely moving traffic.

At times, the muddy puddles stalled the rickshaw, requiring the driver to step out in the pouring rain, and, push the vehicle.
But, my brave charioteer remained unfazed, and, kept up a steady flow of chatter, all through the journey.

His name was Vishwanath.
And, he was a native of North Karnataka.
Gulbarga, to be more precise.

He was yet another face in the crowd of rustic aspirants, who throng our cities, year after year, with hopes of building a better life for himself and his loved ones!

As we rode along, the story of Vishwanath's hard life unfolded.

He worked as a dental assistant, during the day, for a meagre salary of Rs. 2,500/-.
And, drove an rickshaw by night to supplement his income.

Even so, life was tough.
Especially, with an aged mother, and, a baby girl to care for.

How much did he make?, I asked him curiously.
"Oh, in a good month, I make about 5,000. Sometimes, even more. At other times, much much lesser."

How did he manage?, I asked with feeling, deprivation, having been, no stranger to me.
The only difference being that, unlike Vishwanath, I had never had any dependents to fend for.

" My house rent alone is 2,000 Rs, Madam. Then comes groceries, other essentials of life, medication for my mother and also, caring for the baby. Truth be told, I work hard, only, for my baby girl. I want her to grow up to be a big person" said he, his leathery face, aglow, with hope, and, determination.

" What do you want your daughter to be, when she grows up?"

" I want her to be like the big doctor I work for. Today, a girl has so many opportunities, and, choices. I want my daughter to study and work. And, not marry young, or, stay at home like my mother and wife. God willing, I will be able to fulfill my responsibilities towards her"

I could only nod mutely.
And, in my heart, wish him well.

An hour later, I was at my destination.
Reasonably dry, and, overflowing with gratitude towards this diminutive man, who had got me home safe and dry.

But, he brushed aside my thank-yous airily.
As he did the crisp 500 note, I extended towards him.
"Madam, it was my responsibility to bring you home safe. Tomorrow, it might be my daughter who is in the same position, and, I can only hope that someone will also bring her home safe and dry."

For the second time that evening, I found myself lost for words.
And, could only look on, mutely, as he cheerfully started his vehicle and roared away into the darkness.

Somewhere, in a hovel, on the fringes of Bangalore city, lives a little princess, who, I am confident, is destined for success.
Maybe, our paths will cross.
Maybe, it won't.

Either way, I do hope, she inherits her father's talent, of making a difference to the lives of people.

Especially, rank strangers in need!!!


Abhilash Suryan said...

It's such people who lives on their dreams for their children that make us proud of our nation, the ones who have been pushed into deprivation by generations of corrupt and nepotic rulers and yet retain their innate goodness and their eternal hope that their struggles will bear fruit some day in the distant future and their children will have a better tomorrow

The Survivor said...

Life can be real hard on some of us.

I guess we should be grateful for what we have.

Arch said...

That actually had me all choked meet a lot of nice people, dont you :)

The Mad Alpha Moggie said...

:) :)
Right Arch, that's me..The Nice People Magnet
:) :)
Now, was that a round about way of patting yourself on the back too?
:P :P
On a more serious note, yes, I have been lucky all thru life in having been able to meet exceptional people from all walks of life.....I have met a few really nasty ones too, but, then they do not merit mention in this space...

The Mad Alpha Moggie said...

Abhilash, I think most parents dream big for their children especially when they are new parents. But, it is not very often a man is able to live the dream from the very begining. I was blown away when the man told me that it was his responsibility to get a working girl home safe and sound, because someday in the future, his daughter might be in the same spot...He said it as if his daughter was already at work and not sleeping in her crib at home!!!
If everyone lived the way, this man if his dream was already a reality, then our country would be such a rich nation!!!

Yes survivor, even when things are bleak, we must remember that there is always someone, somewhere who is worse off than we are...
:) :)

magicalsummer said...

the nicest of people can be found in the strangest of places and situations - lucky you that evening, lucky girl to have that father, and i wish his dreams for her come true.