Rickshaw memories

It’s a rainy June day, and you know what happens on rainy June days, there are a dozen people out on the road, copiously covered in colorful layers of rain wear and umbrellas. There is the disgruntled employee, swearing at the Gods, precariously placed under the modicum of comfort the peepal tree provides. There is the housewife who does not really care what happens over her head as long as she does not miss her favorite soap. Then there are the beggar children who exult in their free bath and run about the street wearing what they usually wear, next to nothing. There is the thinker, who ponders over the fact that the possible water purity of this rain would equal the desalinized water from unused underground wells, and if only the place could have had some water harvesting system. And the observer searches for people to observe, and in his experience, there is no better place to observe than a busy street on a rainy day. His eyes moves from person to person, and then he finally sets on three.

Even in all the ordinary people the street is subjected to, there are three more interesting characters, and they just jut out from what could be called the realm of the painfully normal. Specimen A is a thirty-ish, normal height-ish, wheat-ish guy who isn’t really out of the ordinary. He shuffles about the street with anxious beady eyes then proceeds to remove another cigarette, a moderately expensive brand as he grounds the previous one to the fine dust it deserves to be. He pulls his windcheater closer to him as he shivers from the cold the rain provides.

Specimen B is older, wiser and more mature. Her umbrella billows in the wind as she strives to maintain the difficult posture she is currently in, vainly trying to make sure her make-up (Slightly on the higher side of the spectrum) on despite the rain. Her white sari is floats around her, and an aura of experience that age so grudgingly gives surrounds her. Her aging body is cloaked by the obviously massive amounts of fairness creams; I suspect the use of Olay or Ponds, or in this troubled world full of the inane and sometimes insane, even both.

Specimen C is the PYT, the one everyone is staring at the street. Her small umbrella does not stop the rain completely, and everyone oohs and aahs at the droplets of rain dripping below. She is 18? 19? Very much in the peach of youth, she draws attention like she usually does. Some stare at her with more envy than admiration, and the specimens A and B are among them.

Specimen A has seen people like C before. Apart from that figure which would please his ideal (as ideals go); he knows he is in for a rough day, since people like C are hardcore fighters. B is more envious, and more aware of the impending judgment that all those strands of her hair so agonizingly give. Especially determined, she stares down at the girl in hot pants, eyes full of that pious anger that age so usually gives to the aged.

What are Specimens A, B and C intending to do? They intend to catch a rickshaw, a task comparable to defeating Hercules in an open duel, and so on and so forth. The crowd settles down to watch an interesting spectacle that no doubt would be presented to them, and sip on their glasses of tea and munch on the biscuits which their hard earned money earns. Our three subjects ready themselves as well. A flexes his arm muscles experimentally, and stretches a bit. B dabs the last bit of foundation and shifts the umbrella from hand to hand. C just does what she is supposed to do and stands there.

The first rickshaw comes along. A waves his arms like a Mohd. Kaif, leaving everything to fate and to the decision of the rickshawwala. Our rickshawwala is an old hand; he drives through the puddles and snakes through the parked cars. He looks at the flailing arms of A and is about to stop when he sees C. The roving eye for beauty is still preserved within the layers of abuse the traffic has hardened him to, and he speeds on past A and B and stops agonizing close to the puddle. A swears but settles back to his cigarette, as he muses back on the inimitable reality of Murphy’s Law. C smiles like girls are supposed to at the rickshawwala, and almost swoons in her pleasure of his magnanimity. She almost shouts, “Parla?” The rick is a nodding bundle of nerves, and as she gets in, the largely male crowd disperses. The rick arranges his rear view mirror to the metre long legs behind him, and speeds on.

The second rickshaw comes along. A settles down to his pattern, while B starts running about, umbrella forgotten. Another Sridevi? One would muse. The rickshaw makes the split second decision that so distinguishes rickshawwalas, and speeds on past A. B smiles demurely at the rick and shouts, “Vile Parla?” The rick nods and she gets in arranging the folds of the sari and speeds on.

The third rickshaw comes along. A is tired of all his exertions, and he weakly waves at it. The rick hesitantly stops, and A whispers, “Parla?” The rick is disgruntled by the request. He mentions the traffic, the signals, but A promises him some more money and finally gets in. And the rickshaw speeds on.

And so the observer is left with nothing to observe, and the thinker nothing to think about. The three specimens speed on to their destinations, and to their next fight, if any. A study of human nature, if you please. The observer nods happily at his correct interpretations, and then thinks of the profoundly simple lessons that life sometimes contrives to teach us. ‘Tis a lesson well learnt, and well thought, and as he ponders on the absurdity that is this life, he smiles at how His plans come about, and how He thinks, and as he crosses the street to buy yet another cutting, he shares a private joke with God. The exertion is minute, and the tea is as conductive to thinking as anything. The rain pitters and patters to a stop, but the thinkers think on.

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