I am on my way home, in one of the million autorickshaws that hold Mumbai’s middle class commuters to ransom every day. When you see someone sitting smugly inside, you don’t always know what sort of a sense of achievement fills a person when after scores of refusals; one of the three wheeler drivers finally agrees to transport you. You quickly step in before the kind fellow changes his mind, and then settle down to a long ride. Long not necessarily because of the distance, but mostly because the traffic in this city pauses more than it moves. Ah well, this gives you the time to catch up on sms replies, emptying inboxes, etc, and if you still have time after you have given up on trying to talk in the noisy traffic, you may look around you and realize that there always is plenty on offer for viewing. In fact viewing may even lead to reflections, soul-searching and the like, and then you move on, forgetting the moment which had deluded you into believing that you have more heart than you actually do. That little beggar pulling at your hand, who has no business being a beggar so young.  The old lady whom you’ve seen begging at the same signal for over twenty years, and who you suspect has more money than you do. The diabetic old man secretly eating a sweet at a roadside eatery counter. The eyes of the little street children – sometimes vacant, sometimes greedy, sometimes wistful…

Today, from my autorickshaw, I saw a man in his home, the home being a huge concrete pipe by the roadside. He sat unmoving in a chair that he had placed at the entrance of his home, and I am not sure he was observing anything or just lost in his thoughts, perhaps of a faraway home left behind. The city sees so many people trooping in, day after day, in search of that ever-elusive livelihood. I just have to try very hard to get a rickshaw home. No, my life isn’t so bad.

Behind the man who has made the concrete pipe his home is a rolled up mattress, a dirty plastic bottle with water but no cap, a few newspapers, some clothes. The chair he sits on is a broken, discarded chair. He has a lean, tired look. His hair is unkempt and he’s not exactly young. I wonder if he gets to eat often enough.

My autorickshaw moves moves on…

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14 responses »

  1. deepika says:

    Nicely narrated experience.

  2. Sonal says:

    Nice observation Irene. I could especially visualize the line- “The diabetic old man secretly eating a sweet at a roadside eatery counter”.

  3. vimala madon says:

    It’s strange Irene, but I have also written a small piece on my travels in an auto. It has a different take from your enjoyable blog and I will also share it soon with my fellow writers on this site.

  4. knot2share says:

    I miss the autorickshaw rides. They are noisy and bumpy but one of a kind. Very well narrated refelctive moment.

  5. Indrani Talukdar says:

    It is a beautiful, touching account.

  6. sreelata menon says:

    Gosh! Bang on,Irene.I’ve done this so many times while

    commuting.Sometimes I even engage them in

    conversation…but out of sight ,out of mind unless it spills out

    like shernaz said in some kind of literary output later as it has

    for you!

  7. Sneha says:

    All right Irene. Keep writing please 🙂

  8. Irene says:

    Thanks Beyniaz, Shernaz, Sneha. Sneha, the pic is courtesy Shail 🙂

  9. Sneha says:

    Now, Irene, I don’ t know if you find this too dramatic, but I’d been dying to read something written by you for so long. I don’t know but this somehow reminds me of my article in 4iw of Togetherness and the Human Touch.
    And the photo looks so familiar, is it the one near Juhu Chowpatty?

  10. Beyniaz says:

    Very nice blog, Irene. Makes us all contemplate too!

  11. Shernaz says:

    A contemplative write, Irene. So often caught in a traffic snarl, most of us get hassled and just want to be out of it. If more of us would take that time out to ponder over things other than our own inconvenience, it’d make our lot easier to bear.

  12. Irene says:

    Thanks Vimala, and Shail, for the photo as well 🙂

  13. Dear Irene,

    I know, times like these when we are caught mid way between going to work or home we come across people who seem to have more problems than we actually imagine ourselves to have. It is then, like you said, we really have some soul-searching to do.

    A nice reflective write-up Irene.

    Shail

  14. vimala ramu says:

    Surely Mumbai doesn’t lack for such scenes for reflections and ponderings for an observant person like you !

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