Prashant Dutta



Prashant Dutta


The World That Only Changes

The World That Only Changes

4 mins 1.2K 4 mins 1.2K

As a rickshaw puller I see the world transforming in front of me. The fat babu, my passenger is extracting the food stuck between his teeth with a toothpick. I can make out that he had a lavish lunch. He burps and also farts. He is restless, he keeps changing sides on the seat, looks like he consumed more than his large tummy could accommodate. His limbs are chubby; he has a large filled face and the belly, an enormous one. On the other hand look at my body; it is like a dry stem, no extra flesh, no tummy and my face is hollow-cheeked. But I have enough strength; I pick up the handle of the rickshaw with a fat a man like this babu seated on it and then pull the machine with the passenger. The start is straining, I need to exert lot of power, once the running begins the rickshaw also comes in a momentum and then the work is not arduous. I need to just run and maintain the balance. When the traffic halts or the congestion is more in the lanes I need to slow down, every time the motion is lost the same has to be gained with renewed effort. And how much do I get paid for this effort, an amount which people would not budget for. Just the loose change that get accumulated in the pockets, on its own.

“Stop, stop, in front of that red house” the babu commands.

I control the rickshaw and then lower the handle slowly, I need to be careful, the passenger may lose balance and fall face down if the handle is lowered abruptly. I take the gamcha from my head and wipe the beads of sweat that has got formed on my face and neck. The fat babu stands on his feet and pulls down and straightened his pant then fishes few coins from his pocket deep below; he hands over to me five rupees and places it on my open palm. I look at the coin and continue to keep the palm open, an indication that the fare is not paid in full. He digs deep his hand again in his pocket and extracts more change; the total now comes to nine rupees.

“That’s all, don’t ask for more, I pay much lesser daily” he minces his words.

I continue to keep my palm open but he walks inside the gate and he is gone. The babu could have paid me more but he doesn’t see any value in paying me. He considers paying me as a cost but he spends generously on many things for far less service. I know this fact, I don’t mind, this is a regular affair for me. I place the coins in my cloth purse attached to my dhoti in the waist. The purse has got a string attached to it; once I drop the coins in it I pull the strings to close the mouth of the purse. This was made by my wife many years ago but it is absolutely fine, no holes, no tear. I fix it on my waist and move to the next corner. There is school in the corner and in few minutes a sea of students would come out like sea waves. I will get another passenger soon, a much lighter one.

The footpath was our home when we arrived at Kalkatta those many years ago. Few plastic sheets, my father managed to get them from scraps, were laid on the footpath by my mother and that is where we slept. Food was not available regularly, most of the nights we went to sleep empty stomach. My father would go in the search of job every morning and I would walk the streets exploring the city while my mother stacked and arranged our little and rubbishy possessions. She would even clean the area as if it were our permanent house. Few street urchins once encountered me and spoke in some language I didn’t understand. I was trashed by them for reasons not known even to this day. Everyone who saw me looked at me with disgust. I couldn’t understand why it was so; we didn’t mean any harm to anyone. It was just a turn of fate that we were homeless and in an unknown city. The only difference between us and them was that their fate didn’t betray them.

“O..rickshaw wala chacha, will you take me home” a little girl called me.

The school was over and children ran out with cheering noise. She must have been among the first ones to come out of the school gate.

I could feel a mild smile on my face on the innocence of the child. So pristine are children but how the world transforms them and make less human as they grow up.

“Yes bachha, I will take you to your home”

She didn’t wait any further and got into my rickshaw. I pulled the rickshaw, my passenger was feather weight, and it felt like running with my empty rickshaw. The bell jingled as I ran and I could hear the laughter of my young passenger.

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