Last week, I broke my squash racket and today, I was all game to enter the most crowded place in Delhi to buy a good one, the Sadar Bazaar. It is supposedly the place that pumps the economy and accelerates the cash flow in goods trade in New Delhi. You can get almost everything there, sports equipment, lab equipment, household stuff, raw cloth, bag, umbrellas, spices, you name anything, it will be on one of the ‘gali’ or the so– named “XYZmal” road there (e.g. Munnamal road). You cant get parking there, park the car 2 kilometers away and take a cyclerickshaw to the gali of your needs or if you fall into the class that feels its inhuman to have someone drive you with his legs ( unfortunately I belong to this secta), you can only bravely walk on your own feet( with handkerchief incessantly sticking to your nose to help you preserve your nostrils from rotting away by the open nullahs). The way people work there – labourers, wholesalers, “Laalas”, its simply amazing. At such a place where you can’t even afford to breath suently just to help your heart beat only 72 times per minute, people spent their whole lives in the legacy trades.
Among these arduous spokes of the wheel of trade, the ones that rotate the most are the freigth pullers. Neither the cyclerickshaw, nor the horse cart, they are a human cart. They have given horses a run for their money and have substituted them. They would carry anything from anywhere to everywhere. Just give them the money and they will even take a nuclear bomb unknowingly. A simple description of a puller would be – thin, boney, some muscles spurting out, wearing a lungi/some short and yelling nothing but “ Dekh ke Dekh ke” making sure nobody is hurt from their cart when they move like a serpent from those 5 feet narrow(or wide?) pot holed tracks. Oh and yes, they are BARE FOOT.
I couldn’t stand my thoughts about them and spilled it out. I asked one of the not-so-busy pullers, “ Aap agar chappal pehen ke chalo ya fir cycle wala ricksha chalao, to kya aamdani mein kuch farak padega”. He looked at me as if a part of some space shuttle chipped off and fell in front of him – yeah me. I felt like I committed a sin. The way he looked around caressing his thin stomach, the satisfaction that I don’t even show after gulping a gatorade, shining bright on his face after taking his own saliva in (visible through some crawling in his throat and then through a small drop of sweat on his bare chest that was displaced by the motion that just happened in the feeble body), the fibbrilation that throngs my heart when I fail to put emotions into words was just something that was reflected in his eyes, just the failure had a different genre here, to earn enough bread for his family, for the day. In a sulky voice, he replied “ Jab kisi ka bhoja dhote hain na, to yehi nange pair (feet) kaam aate hain, bhoja dhone mein nahin, unse mehnat ke paise aasani se lene mein aur jab kisi ko taras aa jaye, woh 2 paise zyaada bhi de deta hai”. What he meant was that his pulling the cart barefoot helps him get some sympathy from the Laala who is going to pay him at the destination and if he is lucky, he will get some extra bucks to make his day. The people who pay him for pulling the freight are new everyday, the retailers coming to the wholesalers from across India.The duologue ended there. I couldnt reciprocate on what he said, just said a “hmmmm” and moved ahead.
I left myself for the 2 kilometers I was supposed to travel on feet. I don’t know how I reached the car, what I saw on the way, what was happening in the way, but I reached the place, somehow, safely. Even the feeling of having a live left ventricular appendage abandoned me. I don’t know if I felt sad for the state of the physical labourer in my country, but yes, I felt like crying, crying for God, crying to God who plays with the world on his will. Even if I cried all day long, the millileters he perspired everyday would by and large outweigh my attempt from the organ that scientifically can regenerate water in the body most quickly(eyes). The drop of sweat that I saw going down from his forehead down his missing cheek acted as an emboli choking all the red liquid gushing inside. It was not that I saw such “mehanati” people for the first time, but I just devoted some thought over how they work and survive, for the first time.
The physical labourers in the US and the gulf are a respected lot, earning anything from $20–30 an hour. Why in India is such a situation of pity spitting on the so-called equality for all barking constitution? If he couldn’t go to school, why is he made to ruin? Whatever the reason may be, unemployment, over-population, humans riding on human weaknesses, whatever, but why so much discrimination and disrespect for someone (the puller) and why so much respect and dignity in speech and behaviour for the other one (The Laala). I am sure many would vow for the education that the carter missed. Please do not delve into that discussion, it would be meaningless here. The Laala is as illiterate as the cart puller. This just shows that the flow of power and revenue in India is very much unbalanced. Albeit it may sound too childish to think of revenue balance between the two ‘types’ of spokes in the trade, acually it is not, try looking at the bigger picture.
Though I wish that all wallow in the luxuries of life that have been dreamt, your dreams be graced, your needs fulfilled at the blink of an eye, but is it really too early to rove a look around, or is it too late? I can’t think of what I can do, what I WILL do. But I pray to the almighty, just give me enough strength, enough determination, enough motivation and just enough sensibility to do what I should do.That I take this stance in life with a pious heart, with a selfless feeling, to do something, to work for something, to die for something, that does not reap me anything.