Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ricksha Wallah

I am departing from my usual subject matter as I recently returned from a trip to India and witnessed something that was gut-wrenching.

I had visions before I had left of most of what I was to see there, in terms of living conditions of the average person. What brought me to tears and saddened me beyond belief was the following:

Chaotic, busy, horn-honking, lights, faces, shouts, smells, traffic moving at all speeds with people walking, cyclo-pousses, auto-rickshas, cars, carts, cows - anything that can move was and was darting in and out of each other's way with rapid and loud movements... moving forward in a million directions. You can see the sounds - they are so loud. The noise is as thick and pungent as smog. We were watching it all happen outside of the tunnel-vision view from our own ricksha when all of a sudden, in one single beat, traffic stopped Instead of calm and quiet inertia - this sent horns, people's voices and animals into mania - trying to see what had happened and get it out of the way. The one rule of traffic here is that it never stops.

After a few minutes (but what seemed like an eternity to people who were late getting to an airport for not one but two international flights) things dwindled down and our own cart began moving again... moving forward to allow us a view to see that some type of accident had happened - to watch clients in flourescent orange and deep blue saris getting out of a unmotorized ricksha that had fallen - shouts coming from a man on a moped who had most certainly caused this and wanted no blame or responsibility.

But as all this cleared in my vision, one sight remained - the look of the most deep despair and sadness I have ever seen as the ricksha wallah (ricksha man, or driver) picked up the broken and bent pieces of the wheels of his ricksha - he moved with a slowness that spelled out his pain and utter attempts to not accept what was happening to him; this must be the speed of sadness, of total loss - looking at what fate had just dealt him - this is most certainly his only means of a living, this means a night without pay and who knows if he has the money to pay for the reparations - but the look on his face told us he didnt and this would certainly mean future hunger or worse. No insurance, no cares from the moped driver nor the clients both fleeing the scene as quickly as possible to get to their party or take on the next client. In the chaotic, hurried scene of the streets of Varanasi - everything moved in a slow, desperate, tristesse motion for this one ricksha wallah.

I will never forget his face, nor how quickly and deeply I felt sadness for him and the unjust, unfair situation that happened in a split second.


A said...

Wow, you hadn't told me this story before. It is a split second that can shake people into a range of emotions. I heard something yesterday that was a good reminder, though I've been slow to accept this. It was a saying from a man from India, and something tells me that your ricksha wallah gets this better than most & so WILL be fine:

Pain is inevitable
Suffering is optional

bijou said...

@A: I love that quote - it is quite true. Hopefully he will be fine. I dont think I will ever forget him.