Saturday, July 11, 2015

The dilemma

          Kedar hated those hot and humid summer noons. He also hated the idea of such short noticed conferences in the office. They named it a conference, but in reality the bosses would take a review of their doings, tell them whatever they have done is not enough. He had received the e-mail for the conference the previous morning, which in turn ruined his whole day. There was only one train in the late evening that could take you through these four hundred miles to reach Kolkata in the morning. Kedar had no other option than to board that train. Boarding that train without a ticket and then managing the TTE for a place to sleep had become  regular for him, courtesy to such frequent short noticed conferences.

             The train reached Kolkata around ten thirty, late by almost three hours. Like his habit of not buying a ticket from the ticket window, being late by two to three hours had also become more regular for the overnight mail. His office guest house was two miles away from the office, his destination for the day. Taking the shower at the guest house had relieved him greatly, the night was really a tiresome one. When you have to travel sitting on the crowded sleeper coach in a humid June night, you have got to be tired. Now he was on the road again. 

              The main road was a few blocks away. With the Sun showing all its wrath, there was not much life on the streets. Even the stray dogs were taking a nap in the shadows. Living had become harsher. Kedar waited more than ten minutes  for a passing by cab, unfortunately, there is none to be seen. There would be cabs on the main road, but he was not in a condition  to walk a kilometer to reach there. Already running late, he finally decided to walk a few yards, round the corner he might get something. He knew that an empty cab would be a luxury, so even a shared auto rickshaw would help him. He saw few autos passing this locality last year, but never bothered to find where they were going.
            Kedar walked through the narrow Kolkata lanes, crossed a few turnings.Nothing was there to commute yet. The hit was killing him. He was holding the few papers that he had with him above his head to get a shade and decided, anything commutable coming through those lanes next, be it a private car, he would ask for a lift. But that noon was a miserable one. He stopped under a tree for few moments at a crossroad, eying the four narrow lanes for traffic.

            Basudeb was also eying for commuters at the crossroad. He was sitting on the pedestal of his hackneyed hand pulled rickshaw, waiting for a long time now. He dropped the three children from Banerjee babu’s house to their school at eight in the morning. That was one of the few monthly arrangements that he had. He had another two regulars in the afternoon. At least those confirmed that he would have a fixed pay around a thousand rupees at the end of the month. That was a very measurable day for Basudeb, as he had only four trips from the crossroad to the main road earning him mere twenty rupees.

 In fact, it had been a tough time for people with the hand pulling rickshaw for many years now. People had become more and more educated, society had become cosmopolitan and the thought of one old man pulling the weight of another man with his luggage ( sometimes two to three times of his weight) had become inhumane to many. People normally tend to use the rickshaws in the crowded markets when they had to carry huge baggage , or when the narrow lanes of Kolkata are waterlogged during rainy season and someone had to reach the bus stand without getting wet . Basudeb and his fellow rickshaw pullers had fat income those days. But that was not one of such days. Basudeb had never had enough income. For many days now, he had been thinking of changing his area to the marketplace, but that required bribing the new union leader with a thousand rupees at least. A thousand rupees was hard to come by those days to a man like him.

Kedar also didn’t like to be an inhumane fellow. He had noticed the gray-haired rickshaw puller, waiting for a passenger. His eager eyes were looking straight to Kedar in hope.It was too hot, too humid, Kedar definitely would love a ride. How far it would be to the main road, six fifty to seven hundred meters. A ride for ten minutes for ten rupees would not be so inhumane.

 When he came close to the rickshaw, Basudeb got up on his feet. Kedar was about to ride the rickshaw when he noticed Basudeb’s bare feet. He stopped and looked on to the road, the asphalt was melting.

The road was black and so were the rickshaw puller’s feet.

No comments:

Post a Comment