Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This Morning

My favorite treadmill in the gym overlooks an interesting segment of the road. To avoid looking at the calorie-time –distance-incline-speed panel, I usually concentrate on the people going by. Early mornings are always a familiar scene, whether you watch it from the treadmill, or from the window of your house sipping tea. Fathers with rumpled hair, sleepy eyes, nightclothes going to drop the kids on their scooters and bikes; reluctant kids hanging on to the seats, or onto the fat tummies of their still young dads who are going to flop on the bed the moment they reach back home. Rickety school buses carrying children to school-amazing how the cars and other personal vehicles come with all kinds of safety measures but the van and bus wallahs have modified the buses with seats to benches and kids sit there prone to falling in any direction should the bus take a turn. I always used to wonder where do all the old vans and discarded buses go. And now I come to know that they are employed for these “not so important” journeys. And kids going in buggies. Buggies - the very logic of which makes me cringe, but which, in any case, are better than the rickshaws manned by skeletal men who have to paddle fat men and women to their destinations. And of course, cars – driven by ill-clad chauffeurs (it being Ludhiana) and dads and moms who go to drop the kids to school.

Today, there was something special that I saw. There were five kids, probably slum kids-probably not - but definitely from lower middle class. They were all in motley dresses, not in the uniforms of public schools. One of the kids, a female, had a single crutch to support herself, and a carry bag in one hand. Other kids were younger, and all carrying school bags or plastic carry bags-obviously going to school on foot. They stood and had a deliberation amongst them over I don’t know what. Then they hailed a rickshaw that was passing by them in the same direction. I do not know what the exchange between them was, but I saw the rickshaw puller shaking his head indicating a negative response. The kids again talked to him, probably pleaded with him. After about 2 minutes of discussion, the older girl indicated to the kids to hop into the rickshaw. They all took their seats immediately on the main seat and the "tupp", and off they went.

From what I gathered with my over-oxygenated brain atop my sweating body, I presume the kids requested him to drop them to their school, and he refused. They then renegotiated and then he relented.

And I am 100 percent certain that the kids had no money between them.

Therefore, I admire the rickshaw puller, who got nothing in monetary terms from this trip, except perhaps some mental satisfaction of having helped a few underprivileged kids.

Would you, or I, or anyone else amongst us do it if we were going past them in a car ??