Delhi Diary: From Ganges To Capital

By Fahad Shah

Every dawn follows with a new fresh day. New twenty four hours will introduce him with unknown people. Some unknown faces. Perhaps, some regular. At 10 in morning it’s time for him to sit on the triangular Rexene cushion and kick off the ride. Touches the steel handle gripped with thin plastic. Puts feet on rubber griped pedals. His companion is a steel machine which stands on air filled rubber tubes. It is the three tyre cycle rickshaw.

Shambhu Nath lives in Varanasi, a city situated on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. When he transports travellers from Jorbagh metro station to their respective destinations his two sons might be taking lessons from teacher. They study back home in Varanasi. There little sister is newly born. She spends most of her time being in mothers lap.

What you want your children to become?

“Their desire will decide. Whatever they like they should excel in that. My duty is to provide them education. I am trying my best,” he rotates his head 180 degree and probes my eyes with a tired smile.

Nath is a rickshaw puller. He pays five hundred rupee per month to sleep in a room at Kotla Mubarak Pur with five more tenants. His fortune lies in the heart of metro commuters. It depends whether they would like to take a rickshaw after sprouting out from the exits of station or they prefer to go by foot. A healthy exercise in pleasant weather. Sometimes a nightmare under red-orange-yellow sun of New Delhi.

Cycle Rickshaw Corporation Ltd.

Yes I couldn’t find any other punch line. There is a brain behind every rickshaw on Dilli streets. A rickshaw costs 7000 rupees. Nath knows the economics of running Cycle Rickshaw Corporation Ltd. But he never aspires to establish any. He told me the corporation has to pay 3000 rupees every month for one rickshaw to New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC). Rickshaws can’t run in posh colonies. They say.

“It is like a tax towards them.”

He pointed to a tempo. I can read NDMC painted on the nose of tempo with shade of white paint.

Everyday a man comes in a car and Nath handover sixty rupees to him. The man in car is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of  the Corporation. CEO runs the corporation of fifty rickshaws. He is rickshaw-lord of Nath.

A smile welcomes me when a diagonal turn near red light gives me first look of the place I told Nath to take me.

“Sahib, I am happy in this work. It is better than jobs. Here I am my own boss by paying sixty rupees a month.”

I felt happy for him but a sudden bump in road washed that happiness when it hurt my bottoms.

“I make 5000 to 6000 rupees every month. And after paying 1800 rupees to rickshaw owner and my rent I save good money.”

Nath changes his shift from streets to his shared-rented room at 10 pm. He works twelve hours a day.

As he saw the red brick building to which he navigated his machine his eyes could explore my face now. I can see lines on his forehead making a pattern. His brownish face filled with satisfaction. Black eyes. White teeth like linear galaxy on dark night.

I could see a gate of red bricked building and told him to stop. He obeyed.

My hands went to my hurt bottoms and returned with a brown leather wallet. A reddish twenty rupee note with bald Gandhi Ji dwells in top-right pocket of Nath’s yellow colour shirt.

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