Friday, 9 June 2017

Cluey Part II : Shantiniketan'er Toto-wala.

This is a longish post but I hope you can make it to the end.
My elder brother introduced me to the term cluey which in one word explained what exactly I felt when I wrote my last post. I think all of us feel cluey about something or the other quite often in out lives and the feeling cannot be better explained. For all of you who haven't come across the word "cluey" before you could take a look at this.
So now that you know what cluey means. I must admit that it is a feeling I experience very very often. A few days back, I had taken a trip to Shantiniketan with my mother, aunt and my cousin. It was quite an eventful journey but this one incident with a Toto-wala is something which ended up having the strongest impression on my mind and has left me feeling very cluey for a long time. So what happened is this. In some places in India including Shantiniketan, a Toto is the faster equivalent of a cycle rickshaw. In small places like Shantiniketan, Totos and cycle rickshaws are actually the only mode of conveyance. On our first day there we spoke to one such Toto-wala (Toto driver) to take us around the next day and agreed on an approximate rate. The next morning, Raju (our Toto-wala) was there before time and as discussed he took us too all the places that had been agreed upon. He was a youngish man in his 20s I suppose. He was soft-spoken and respectful and as you can assume, the parents found him very agreeable. We started at 10 in the morning and everything was comfortable apart from the heat. Raju had to cover almost all of his face with a cloth to tackle the loo. By the time we got back it was almost 4 in the evening and that is when things got a little bad. As you can imagine, after the whole day of driving, Raju probably realized that he had charged insufficiently the day before and when it was time to make the payment he started asking for Rs. 800 instead of Rs. 300 like he had said the day before. Obviously the parents lost it, scolded him and paid him Rs. 600.

Now if you ask me, I think expecting him to be satisfied with 300 after that long trip was not fair at all. Also it should be mentioned here that while my Aunt lost it a little bit and called him a cheater and what not he never spoke rudely or disrespectfully. Just kept saying very sadly, "ete hobe na didi, shotti bolchi. Chalate parbo na ami." ("This is not enough Ma'am. I swear. It wont be enough"). For a moment I thought he was going to start crying. However, I do understand the grown-ups point of view a little, "if it was not enough you should have said so before!". Anyhow they finally handed him 600 bucks and we left. That same day we had a train back home and earlier we had asked Raju if he could drop us to the station. While we were leaving, he called back and in spite of being sreamed at so much asked, "Didi station e jaben toh" (You will go to the station with me right?). The parents were almost about to start grumbling again when I quickly managed to convince them to let him take us. Back at home my aunt kept complaining as to why he behaved like that and he was so wrong and that my mom should have stuck to 300 and not paid him extra. She said they were very clever and only tried to extort as much as possible. Anyway, he came again an hour or two later and dropped us to the station. This time the rate was again pre-decided and he did not say anything more about it till we were turning to leave. Just when we got off and were about to walk away he turned to my mother, joined his hands and said. "Bhool hoye geche. Khoma korben. Kichu mone korlen na toh?" which means, "I am so sorry. I was wrong. Please don't mind."
Now I know that bus drivers and cab drivers and rickshaw puller everywhere are generally known for misbehaving and extorting unreasonably. But all I want to say is maybe not all of them are bad people. Maybe some of them are nice. Maybe we do not know what conditions they live in or the difficulties they face that push them to behave badly. Maybe sometimes we should be a little patient with them and not assume the worst. Some of them are genuinely good people stuck in bad situations.