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A touching story about a woman and the rickshaw driver who takes her to work every day.
Her bed gleamed pale yellow with the morning sunlight, trying to make her aware of the time. Pallavi slowly opened her sleep-ridden eyes with a certainty that she was definitely going to be late for office. She hadn’t been able to sleep properly last night. With memories of Samar playing on loop in her head, she had kept tossing on the bed until 2 a.m. last night. “Was it the right decision to break up with him or did he deserve a second chance? If he could betray her once, he would definitely betray her again?”
While her mind continued last night’s saga, her phone alarm reminded her again of the time. She got up hastily and with a towel in hand, dashed into the bathroom. She got ready in half an hour. This was not her hometown of Himachal, where it took a maximum of 20 minutes to commute from one corner of the city to another. This was Mumbai. Goregaon is just two stations away from Kandivali in Mumbai local and yet it takes more than an hour to reach office from her apartment. Today, she thought of skipping her usual train travel and decided to go directly by auto rickshaw.
She hurriedly got down the stairs and saw a rickshaw waiting just outside her building. “Kandivali?” she asked. He nodded, and she jumped inside the rickshaw. After coming to her senses, Pallavi realized that rickshaw wallah had nodded in a manner as if he knew exactly where to go. She darted a glance at the mirror and tried to inspect him. With salt and pepper hair, he looked roughly 50-55 years of age. His uniform was so neat and tidy that it seemed freshly ironed. Suddenly, it struck her that he was the same person who dropped her to station the day before. Pallavi could have mulled more over it but the idea of thinking about a rickshaw wallah seemed too trivial to her. She took out a novel from her handbag to make better use of time and immersed herself in it.
With salt and pepper hair, he looked roughly 50-55 years of age. His uniform was so neat and tidy that it seemed freshly ironed.
Rickshaw wallah: “Madam, every day you leave home at 9.30 in the morning. I guess you’re a bit late today.”
Pallavi: “Yes, that’s why I am going directly by rickshaw.”
After saying this, she again dunked her head into the book. She couldn’t find duplicity in his words, in fact there was a strange sense of innocence. But even then, she didn’t want to trust him. She had already put her faith in someone she was closely attached to and that got shattered. Then why would she trust a stranger? These days, newspapers are flooded with the news of burglary and rapes. Who knows if a wolf is residing in a seemingly decent looking person?
Though her eyes were still fixed on the book, her mind was entrapped in these complications. Pallavi suddenly recollected that one day when she commuted to office with a colleague, Tanya, this same rickshaw wallah had dropped her. Because of his continuous jabbering, they hadn’t been able to focus on their conversation. This had enraged Tanya. She had been about to shut him up when Pallavi had stopped her. “Come on, even these people get bored of travelling all day without speaking a single word, nobody is there to talk or listen to them?” Pallavi had tried to evade the matter.
Pallavi was deeply engrossed in her thoughts when the rickshaw stopped at the red signal. A beggar approached her and started begging for money. A book is the best companion in such situations. Just keep your head immersed in the book and pretend you are oblivious to the outer world. In some time, they would find their efforts going in vain and target some other person. The rickshaw started again. She observed that rickshaw wallah was taking her through short cuts. It appeared as if it wasn’t Pallavi but the rickshaw wallah, who was getting late. In next 10 minutes rickshaw halted in front of her office. By now she was convinced that he had dropped her to office at least a couple of times before, because not even once she mentioned her office address to him on way.
Rickshaw wallah: “You pay this much only for here na madam? I hope it’s not more than usual.”
Pallavi: “This is the right amount dada, I pay around 100 bucks whenever I travel to office by rickshaw.”
The moment she handed him money, his left hand rose up and it waved in full swing to salute her. Amused, Pallavi burst into laughter. He smiled too and left.
The next morning, Pallavi woke up on time. Although she would take Samar’s memories to her bed every night, but they had started fading away with each passing day.
As she came out of her society building, she saw the same rickshaw wallah standing there. He again gave her the grand salute.
Rickshaw wallah: “Where will you go today madam, station or directly to office?”
She didn’t know why, but she couldn’t talk to him amicably. On the way, the rickshaw wallah kept telling her about his past incidents with other customers and she only responded with a yes or no. She wanted to listen carefully to him, she wanted to talk to him but she feared. She feared to cross the line of demarcation created by the society. He could also have misunderstood her cordial behavior and thought otherwise. Thinking all this, Pallavi chose to remain silent.
The rickshaw was about to reach station when she suddenly asked him: “Dada, do you live somewhere near my society building?”
The rickshaw wallah said, “No madam, why?”
“As in, every morning I see your rickshaw near my apartment.”
“Madam, don’t take it otherwise but every day when I get bohni, the first earning from you, the whole day is spent well, plus I get to earn decently also.”
“Please don’t think so much. This is just your false notion. My office timings are not fixed, you will be in loss. Please don’t come daily in front of my building like this.”
The rickshaw wallah didn’t reply. He halted his rickshaw in front of the station, took money from her, saluted slightly and left. Pallavi wondered what she did was right or not. But if she would tell this to someone, he would definitely consider it a right act as no one can be trusted these days. Thinking of this, she consoled herself and boarded the train.
Next morning, when she left her building, the rickshaw wallah wasn’t there. After that incident he never came back again. Pallavi could not talk about this incident to anyone and she couldn’t forget it herself. Just like a twinge of guilt, this incident and the rickshaw wallah’s innocent smile got engraved in her heart forever.
Image via Shutterstock.
Hailing from the foothills of Himalayas, Isha presently works in an advertising agency in Mumbai.
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