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He pulled this humble looking cycle-rickshaw closer to our office reception, not to disturb the constant in-flow of Hondas, Fords, Hyundais, as well as not to be an eyesore in this jungle of modernity crammed with hideous-looking tall buildings ….These sincere modes of transportation drawn by the poorest yet hard-working folks are an excellent way to move around in a city where one is not that familiar with its topography. Most rickshaw pullers, unlike their modern-age cousins, Auto drivers & Cabbies, do not charge their customers exorbitantly. And they are full of stories about the city, those meandering narrow lanes, strongly held opinions about displaced cows roaming out the traffic empty-hearted and the adverse effects of varied political dramas in the country. I love talking to them in my flaccid bodied Hindi, just the way I used to converse with the Taxi drivers in Mumbai. They are not just the simpler looking modes of transportation for the Indian Middle class, but carriers of the true blue Indian character, i.e. admiringly high levels of tolerance to other cultures & the ever-increasing global consumption pattern, an open-hearted acceptance to the winds of change, yet retaining certain fundamentals which usually define one’s core. When you sit in a cab, the driver immediately switches on the AC, the music system….but when you sit in this fragile looking yet comfortable rickshaw {the whole rickshaw looks like a not-so-tough metal body of inferior quality, held loosely by a few nuts & bolts, a bit of wood here & there} , you feel an immediate connect with the other human being, who is pulling the rickshaw (bare feet, in some cases pedaling hard) that bears your body weight, frail & under-nourished body clad in the oldest pair of shirt & trousers, which seemed to have gone under stitching quite a few times, almost closer to the junction called ‘Ragged look”, making its way through the rough terrains & maddening crowd of cars on the Indian streets.

Today, when I asked the rickshaw puller to give me his mobile no., so that I could call  him whenever I want to go out, instead of a cab that runs on fuel, he smiled vaguely, and said “Madamji, I cannot afford to have a mobile phone, as I earn a mere Rs 1000 per month. But you can inform my bhai who stays in the same compound where I live, a night before the ride. I will come to your flat ……he trailed off! I have been part of a progressive society, which, seems to have miserably failed to create some decent space for such honest & hardworking human beings….its, indeed, a sad development!

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