Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Colours of Life!

(This is the copy of the article I wrote for an NGO's magazine... I interviewed a rickshawpuller to get a glimpse of the life he lives... thought I could share my experience and what he had to say!)

Clad in a red check shirt, blue pants, folded; a pair of chappals… that is how he has always been seen: this is his everyday attire, his uniform to work. That is Mr. Harish Chand Gupta, a local rickshaw puller. Slim, with average height, a thick moustache and lines of experience etched on his prematurely matured face, he looks older than his 21 years. Originally belonging to a small village called Supol in Bihar, this Marwari Baniya now resides in a small colony in East Delhi.

Born to a well-to-do family, Harish has two sisters and two brothers, apart from his parents in his family. His father commanded a good position in a private organisation, earning about Rs.15000 per month, when he got entangled in a murder conspiracy and lost his job. Since then the family has been forced to resort to farming to sustain itself. His sisters are happily married and settled with husband and kids. His elder brother has a business of his own while the younger one operates an atta chakki.

Harish’s childhood was eventless, yet full of fun and frolic… playing without any worries, studying, hanging out with friends without a care for the world… no responsibilities, nothing. Such was life till class Six, when it became evident o him that life is not going to e as smooth as before. Seeing the increasing financial burden on his parents and the dismal returns on their flood-affected land, Harish decided o quit studying and leave his village in search of a better life.

And this is how he ended up in Delhi twelve years ago, in 1994, at the tender age of nine, all alone and a total stranger to the city, just like the scores of other people like him, to earn his living and make his own luck, in the city of his dreams. When he reached Delhi, he first worked in a clothes factory as a helper for six months. He then shifted to a beer brewery in Haryana and worked there in the capacity of chief engineer for five years. However, daunted by some ghastly accidents and deaths in the factory premises, he soon quit his job. He then went to Punjab and farmed for another two years. After that, till date (five years now) he has been pulling his own rickshaw, which he bought from his savings.

Apart from pulling his rickshaw, he also alternates as a keeper in a nearby bookstore. In total he manages to earn about Rs. 4000 per month. Of this he spends Rs. 2500 on rent, food and other expenses; and manages to send home Rs. 1500. On a typical day, he wakes up at 5:30 am, gets ready, works from 7-9 am, has breakfast and takes rest, gets back to work till lunchtime at 2 pm, rests some more after lunch, opens the bookstore around 4 pm, cleans it and arranges everything, then back to his rickshaw, working till about 9 in the night, when he comes home, cooks and has dinner and retires for the day. He lives all alone, cooks, washes etc. all by himself, with no one to take care of him. He has no social life, no friends, and no entertainment… not even a television or radio. Such is his life, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Is he happy? He says: “Life is currently okay. I do not particularly enjoy it, but do not mind it either. I plan to make it better. I want to make enough money to be able to buy some land of my own to build a house and cultivate a small farm. For that I am learning how to drive a taxi, to start a taxi service of my own.”

Doesn’t he dislike being alone? Wouldn’t he like a life partner, to take care of him and support him in all his endeavours? He quips: “I do not want to get married just yet. My parents and after my life to ‘settle down’, but I want to have my own house and enough money to sustain a family comfortable before I marry.” Marriage and settling down, apparently is a touchy issue for him, due to heartbreak in the past. Some time ago, he fell in love with a girl who did not reciprocate his feelings. Since then he has been quite forlorn and has stopped believing in love.

His happiest moment?

“The life is led as a child, amongst my family and friends: no troubles or worries… only lots of love and fun!”

His saddest moment?

“When my loved on refused my proposal and broke my heart.”

His moment of regret?

“I should not have quit my studies and left my village so soon. Had I stayed on, maybe I would have been much better off right now…”

His proudest moment?

“When I bought a small radio for my parents from my first salary!”

All in all, life for Harish has been full of hardships, struggle and sacrifice; but he still goes on, determined to fulfil his dreams.

His parting words?

“All I want to say to everyone is that one should study and work hard, get a good job, house and family; and take good care of them all… strive to achieve your goals, believe in yourself, don’t give up, and be a good human being.”

With this, and a twinkle in his eyes, a dream in his heart and a song on his lips, he rushes off, beckoned by a prospective customer, and pedals away into his future!


Ketan said...

Amazing post... good one...

Yashika Totlani said...

Added colours to blogosphere! A job well done :) Kudos!

aneesha said...


Every average man can relate with this!

Shivdas Nair said...

Very very well researched and written Aditi !! I went back to those days when I had returned from Holland ( you know the whole story of how I got that job luckily and got to work in Holland when I was just 21 years old).No one in my family or in my friend's family had ever seen so many chocolates as they saw in my suitcase when I returned.
I even got the first music system in our house from Holland !! Till then we had a National Panasonic radio which my father had bought in 1982 !I was really proud when my mom loved those chocolates and my father started playing his favourite mallu bhajans in the new radio.

Someday , I hope this rickshaw puller will also taste success in life..But I hope he never loses the romance , joy and pride that he sees in his own little world today!

Sugar&Spice said...

thanks people and keep visitin!