While hiring a rickshaw one day in Dacca as we were negotiating with a few of the rickshaw pullers demanding unusually higher fare one lanky young man in tattered clothes suddenly emerged from the stand and without going for any bargain told us ‘’ Please take your seats. I shall carry you soon to your destination. You may give me any fare you like, which I shall accept. Otherwise, God will not spare me”. We were struck dumb by his generosity and the total surrender to his almighty. Our repeated efforts to negotiate fully least anything unsavoury should result later proved futile as he continued to mutter to himself unintelligibly in different styles and rapid succession. He seemed to be totally immersed in a different world of his own and oblivious of our presence. We made repeated attempts at distracting him for a final settlement of the fare and averting any chances of accident on a busy street. But to no avail.
We, two brothers, were recently visiting Dacca for a short period and our itinerary consisted of important places including an industrial agro based exhibition while meeting people of different sections of the society in and around the Bangladesh capital. Staying in a posh hotel at Gulshan we preferred to visit other restaurants at Banani to savour the culinary delights of Dacca.
There, unlike Kolkata, rickshaws are easily available. While the roads remain mostly jammed the hand pulled rickshaws bring further distress. However, for a short journey rickshaws are obviously the only option and bring some respite from the suffocating heat.
But as the man was adamant mumbling incomprehensibly and not listening to us, we were afraid but tried once again to please him by offering to come back with him. He immediately accepted our proposal by giving only a nod of approval but again kept himself engaged in unintelligible prayer or his contemplation. Or was he grumbling or ventilating his deep grievances-we could not make out. He was riding speeding up steadily but we did not disturb him anymore. He reached the destination in time and before we could advise him he said “I am waiting for you. Have your lunch and I shall take you back to your hotel’’. This was unusual as no other person would have liked to waste time unnecessarily as rickshaws are very much in demand.
Lunch to our fill
We had lunch to our fill with delicious specially cut big hilsa pieces and mouth watering kababs. “Bangladesh is infact a paradise for any traveller looking to indulge their taste buds. With distinct flavours and many ingenious techniques adopted from each region of the country there is no better place to get a taste of it all than in the nation’s capital”. Our friends in Kolkata had kept on messaging us.
As we were from Kolkata the manager took a keen interest in us particularly when he came to know that I was a freelance journalist. He offered us extra pieces of hilsha inviting us to his restaurant whenever we tour Dacca again. We became very late in leaving the place.
Bidding goodbye to the manager and the staff we found the man waiting on the pavement in a corner muttering to himself. A dog was seen by his side dozing. We offered the man some sweets which he politely declined.
Having lunch amidst discussions
Return to hotel
As soon as we had boarded the vehicle he started to ride and the rickshaw gathered speed and we began to listen to his soft one sided prattle once again. We did not interrupt and allowed him to have his pleasure in whatever way he felt the best. Neither did we try to intrude into his privacy. But moving fast as he tried to negotiate a passing car he was soon nabbed by a mobile police van for flouting traffic rules and speeding. The vigilant official ordered to impound his vehicle. He did not try to justify his action. Neither any word of pleading guilty elicited from his mouth. Standing aside he remained an innocent bystander and only we could hear him speaking to himself. The awkward situation forced us this time to intervene and request the cop for mercy on his behalf. Our entreaty was granted and he soon returned to his seat and took us back to our lodging place rather slowly but still uttering words. To our surprise he did not demand anything in keeping with his words and he accepted gladly the fare we paid. He seemed to be repentant with apologetic gesture for not listening to us. Getting a scope we advised him to pray to his almighty only in a quiet ambience which he accepted but only uttering a sigh.
Musing on the events
He left us soon mumbling his voices. I kept standing near the hotel main gate in a dazed condition as if I had drank myself into a stupor. In Such a bizarre situation I began to think about the person who perhaps had his peace only in complete surrender to his God. He did not show any sign of his greed for money or food but I kept wondering what he would do with the income he was having every day. He might have squandered his hard earned money. He might have had innumerable problems that forced him to look up to his spiritual guide or God forgetting everything. How were his off springs and wife? Had he renounced his former friends and relations and taken to this path after much deprivation and extreme poverty? What would he do if in the cause of modernization his hand pulled rickshaw was prohibited and he was unable to shift to any occupation other than his traditional one? These thoughts occupied my minds.
Suddenly I received a soft nudge on my back from a security guard who was ushering a VIP in his expensive Toyota into the hotel. I soon came back to my normal senses. I returned to my room hurriedly and prepared for the next day’s tour.
A VIP in his expensive Toyota
© 2018 ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE