An Encounter with Patil
Sometimes, unknowingly you walk into someone who is a complete stranger & the next moment you are able to relate with this person in a way which feels like ages. The one person who randomly enters your life, spends just a fraction of an hour with you and disappears as if has never existed at all. But then, those few minutes leave its eternal impressions never to escape from one’s thoughts. Few months ago, I got myself into a similar situation which eventually became an everlasting memory for me. An incident which happened to me recently during my India visit. Even it made me wonder that instead of writing about my fun-filled days in my home-land, I had rather chosen to write on a stranger. There was something very compelling about that person which I respect to utmost & couldn’t able to take out of my mind, no matter how hard I try to forget. To facilitate the same I know exactly the best medium to share my emotions is, penning down about him, here.
The other day on the streets of Pune, my husband Amit was negotiating with the Auto-Rickshaw walas for dropping us to Pimple Saudagar from Aundh. At that moment it appeared to me that all hell has broken loose as the price they were demanding was incredibly high. My general notion about these rickshaw walas is usually not very good depending upon my past experiences. Still Amit was trying to be reasonable enough to work on a mutual amount. Through the process of negotiating I was just trying to hold up my cool as I was constantly getting pissed off by some of their arguments. Firstly, it was around midafternoon i.e 1:45 PM when none of them was ready to go by meter. Secondly, they were charging almost double because as per the argument, they won’t get any other passenger on their return trip. & the last but not the least which raised my anger on cloud 9 was the kind of language & attitude they were throwing on us, as if they are the whole & sole rescuer in that circumstance. They behaved in a way to make us feel like helpless & that there is no other means to get rid of the situation. I generally hate these practices as I am a bitter victim myself. But we decided not to give up to their illogical demands & decided to walk ahead in anticipation of other rickshaw walas.
After a few minutes’ walk, we came across few more rickshaw walas with almost same kind of temperament. We let them go as well because at that point money was not the only issue after all. It was more of their rude behavior & foul language which was making me mad. This kind of psychology is very much common & dominant in rickshaw walas of Pune. I was so frustrated & agitated by the whole incident that I decided to go by Public Bus service rather than to take an auto. Just as we thought that all our hopes have diminished, a decent looking auto wala pulled up his rickshaw besides us. At first he also asked for the same amount but after some bargaining we mutually settled on a reasonable price. A dark complexioned man with patchy grey hairs, big sparkling eyes and high cheek bones shining in the sunlight. He adorned a sweet but confident smile which instantly mesmerized me to let go off my bad mood & the next moment I found myself chatting casually with him all along the way. Even Amit was surprised as he had never experienced this sudden change in my mood earlier.
I actually got carried away by his good behavior which is very unusual in Rickshaw walas. Unlike many others in that profession, he was rather a talkative & jolly person. He first started the chatting as he noticed the typical Bengali traditional White & Red Bangle (Shakha & Paula) on my hands. The conversation took a toll from there. After some more casual exchanges, I noticed a sense of acceptance in his voice & expressions. By then the whole conversation has taken a turn into a more personal than casual outlook.
He started to talk about his life as a Maharashtrian & expressed his views over some past incidents involving North-Indians. He strongly condemned those mis-happenings & termed them unfortunate. During this conversation only, he mentioned his name which I don’t exactly remember but couldn’t forget his last name “Patil” as he asserted his voice more on that. Being a proud Maharashtrian, he never looked down on any other region or culture. His high thinking & modesty on certain sensitive issues truly won me over. His outlook made me realize that people are not blind-folded anymore & cannot get influenced by any fake display of power & money.
He also discussed about his family that he has two daughters & a son. He talked about his struggle as a rickshaw driver & how much he has sacrificed to watch his children to grow up economically & socially. Some of the things which he mentioned really surprised me. I felt connected to him instantly. One of his daughters is a banker and married to a software engineer & another one is a teacher married to a Banker. Both his daughter are leading a good luxurious life without any scarcity. His Son is also a software Engineer working for a reputed IT firm based in Hinjewadi. I was touched when he told me that how his elder daughter has bought a flat in Wakad area & younger daughter has bought a car for herself. The sense of pride & satisfaction was clearly visible on his face.
And then came the biggest surprise of all – He started conversing in English. Frankly, I couldn’t believe my eyes & ears at first what I witnessed at that moment. I was more into a state of surprise as he was conversing in absolutely proficient manner. The language he used, specifially the words including the pronunciation was all perfect. I think he read my puzzled face looking through the rear mirror and revealed that he is a graduate & his past experience includes working in Indian Army. And that explains it all. Somewhere deep down under, I was also amused being associated with defense background myself. On the whole, he continued talking about his sacrifices which he & his wife had made to afford their children’s expensive schooling in convents. He had no regrets at all & rather was content about the fact that all his children are well settled & self-sufficient. The children are also proud of their father & evidently acknowledge his sacrifice & love towards them. As a token a love, all three of them had jointly gifted him with a flat in Kalewadi & he certainly didn’t miss to mention it at all.
As the conversation progressed, his broad & liberal thinking unfolds many other shocking yet amazing incidents of his life. He mentioned that his son & one of his daughters had love marriage. This was quite unusual for me for the fact that people with such background still carry a much narrow & traditional mindset of arranged marriage. The next thing which he brought up was absolutely an icing on the cake. His non-Marathi daughter-in-law eloped with his son to get married & being a father he supported his son throughout the whole event. He arranged for their marriage & even invited her parents also for their blessings. The girl’s parents eventually gave up their pride to attend the marriage & now everything is “Happily Ever after”. He mentioned that the girl’s parents offered for some gifts (read ‘Dowry’) but he proudly denied taking a single penny. He portrays himself as a keen supporter of Anti-dowry system & also complied with the same during his daughters’ marriage too. The whole story appeared to me as a Bollywood masala with all the ingredients in perfect harmony. But nevertheless, this one was real & inspiring enough to make me happy and content with a hope that still there are people who are open to accept & change for good.
Don’t know why, but I couldn’t realize that how time flew away so fast. Those 40 minutes of journey was enough to narrate the life & times of a person whom probably I am never going to meet again, ever. I was still very much under his aura as I was busy picturizing his whole story in front of my eyes (guess I got carried away & felt dramatically emotional); when I suddenly realized that our journey came to an end as we reached our destination. Somehow, I was feeling low & wanted to continue it longer as I was thoroughly enjoying it all along. But as they say, every journey has to come to an end, & so is mine. Amit handed over the money & asked him to keep the change. He refused to keep the extra money as I remind him of his daughters. As we parted our ways & adieu Good-bye, he left me spell bounded by calling me “Beti, Khush rehna” (Daughter, stay Happy). & I found myself emotionally captivated for rest of my life…