The Smell Of Freedom

The Smell Of Freedom

3 mins 239 3 mins 239

I woke up revitalized in the morning, no mosquitoes to fight the entire night, JDP-the rickshaw tycoon had supplied a mosquito net along with a worn out homemade mattress. It was far superior and comfortable then a railway platform bench and incomparable to a prison bed. Rakesh was not to be seen. His bed was empty. I peeked out of the window and was amazed at the countryside view, greenery all around and the atmosphere felt so fresh. No noise except for the occasional bleats of the calves. A sweet and musty smell wafted from the cane fields. I felt happy, free from any tension and anxiety. We were quite far and away from the reach of the police. In this country, so many people commit grave crimes and keep evading the law for years, my case was just a prison escape, much lesser crime and surely not a top priority for the cops. Further, we were in a different state so the inefficient law enforcement agency would not get any headwind about us, they would keep fighting their bureaucracy and we will enjoy our freedom. However, something nudged me. What about my poor and helpless father. He would not know about my escape and may visit the prison to see me. What if the cops caught and tortured him to extract information about me.

Rakesh’s sudden entry startled me. He was holding two glasses with steaming tea. Looking at my shocked face he burst into laughter and said “Don’t worry; the police will take ages to reach us. And even if they have the information about our run they would not be able to recognize us”

We sipped our tea and decided to explore some means for earning money for our daily needs. We walked to JDPs house and as expected found him sitting on his charpai handing over the keys to the rickshaw pullers. We greeted him and quickly the plastic chairs were brought by his young son.

“So, how are you liking this place” he asked.

“Very beautiful place” Rakesh announced.

“Look there is not much here except for the people traveling from nearby villages for work, the cane industry provide some employment and the overall industry outs money in the hands of everyone” JDP said turning the pages of a vernacular newspaper. One news caught his attention and he showed it to us and said “Kidnapping is yet another roaring business. Every other day farmers are abducted for ransom”

“And what if the ransom is not paid” Rakesh enquired.

“What will happen, they kill the farmer and in most of the cases the bodies are never found”

“And the police, don’t they do anything about it” Rakesh now asked curiously.

“They are hands-in-glove with such crimes, it is good for their prosperity” JDP spoke somberly.

“This rickshaw, is it out of order, it is still standing” I pointed to a standing rickshaw. This observation of mine closed the grim discussion.

“Oh, that. Actually the regular puller didn’t turn up today”

I thought for a while and then asked “Will you allow us to pull it today”

JDP laughed out aloud and said “You young boys will pull rickshaw, it is not easy, very straining”

I looked at Rakesh. He understood my idea.

“Just for the experience of it. We will pay you the rent” Rakesh offered instantly.

“I have no problem, actually well for me, but I will still ask you to rethink, pulling rickshaw is not considered a noble job and you are city boys, educated”

We insisted and he agreed.

Pulling a rickshaw isn’t that easy, I pushed the pedal, the rickshaw moved ahead but the handle would go the other way. It took a while to understand the way it functioned. Further, Rakesh gave a push making it easier.

We rode off towards the station to pick our first passenger. We felt quite excited at the prospect. I was sure that we would earn enough to buy a decent lunch.

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