Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A sunny day inside the Taxi

Story !

The taxi stopped in the same old clumsy street of Dharavi. Im not a rich guy.. only because my company pays my travel Im on this taxi. I usually keep my car windows closed for the fear of those eunuchs who will "Raasa ! Raasa " and get money. That somehow keeps me embarassed. So, i dont even mind the suffocation inside..

Todays got unusual traffic jam. I mean, just this place.. usually its a free ride here. But not today.

I was sitting cursing the Sun and the traffic. I concentrated a little outside.. This city Mumbai is a little different. The poverty is very obvious here. Both the sides of the road, you will find people on platforms taking bath, eating food, washing clothes and the rest of the things. They are clearly homeless. There are others who have built two story huts. They are capable of living with their so called income in Mumbai. Chennai has poverty, but not this visible. We've gotr sky-scraper huts here in Mumbai.

I was thinking all this, as if I was the Financial Minister who wants to reform all this on a single signature. Thats when I noticed that lady in Red saree watching me for a long time. She should have been watching me ever since the Taxi halted. She had a kid standing close to her. Should be her daughter. Or Son ? I couldnt make out. Should be a son. He was wearing a dirty trouser. His face was showing that he hasnt had good food.. since days. I always feel bad about hungry people. In Iruvar, Karunanidhi will say "Rich people should not come to politics.. Caste system should abolish.. There should be no brutality" and so on.. but MGR will tell him "No one should be Hungry.. there should not be a situation that a family suffers from hunger..".. I liked that scene for that dialogue from MGR. Im probably forcing myself to feel bad about this.. but im usually not a guy who is so kind and donate a lot to charity.. just that now i have time for that.

Now this short guy looked like coming towards me.. I closely watched him. He wasnt coming himself. He was being pushed. By her.

I wasnt sure why.. but i think it was going to be for begging.. what else could be it.. My hand involunteerly made sure the Window lever was fully turned.. and quickly pretended like sleeping. I made sure the transition wasnt deliberat.. but why am i reacting like this.. I can simply say no ! but i hate to do that. I wish no one comes up to me, begging for money.

I slowly watched out of my closed eyes. The boy hadnt progressed. He was reluctant. He has not done this before and looked like he feels bad, as him mom was compelling him to do so. This is cruel, i thought. Forcing a kid to beg.. attrocious. He ran back.. but was caught by his hair. The child should have shouted.. couldnt hear any sound from behind the windows. She slapped him twice.. he broke into tears.. She then pushed towards me.. now the kid came walking fater towards me. My pretention was already over when the kid was beaten.

I wished the traffic cleared and the taxi started. But it did not..

Knock knock..

I was already looking at him. I was staring actually. He made some gestures.. he wanted money.. he was showing his stomach. Boy.. he was hungry. There wasnt a lie in his gesture. Poor fellow. I had already decided to give some money. Only how much was the dielemma. Sometimes i have wanted to be very generous. (Dont be dismayed, its a matter of 2 digit cash.. thats all). I had planned as of now for Rs. 10..

But there was also a parallel thought. This guy will start begging from now. All the more if he was successful on his first attempt he will choose the same gesture.. the bread winning gesture. He will not attempt to get money in a proper way. I dont reccomend education. But not begging. However he is going to be begging.. but why should i inaugurate.

Not listening to my mind... i opened the window.. "sikkudhunna.. anna anna! rendu naala saapidalanna.. pasikkudhunna.." Tamil.. yes. Dharavi is mostly the residence of the Tamil people.. most of them very poor.

Only two things.. I dont give him any money.. that will disappoint him and chances are that he wont beg anymore.. Or I give him money and dont think too much.. I helped him to eat once.. why do i care if he begs further or not. Im least bothered.. i just would get a great feeling about the donation..

Ok i have decided to give the money to the crying kid. The woman who had sent her.. she could not even be his mother.. was about to have a smile with pride..

I was digging the pocket.. thats when it dawned on me. I did not have change. Only a few hundred rupee notes.. not even coins..

"anna anna.. ! pasikkudhunna.. "

The traffic just cleared..

"Chillarai illappa !! ", i said sadly. The woman was now disappointed..

I sadly watched his face go back through the window, as my taxi progressed.


The Talkative Man said...

"Dharavi is mostly the residence of the Tamil people."

==> Not entirely true. Dharavi is such a melange encompassing all communities. If you pass thru(an ordeal in itself!) the entire stretch of Ninety Feet Road, you will find a row of tamil localites quickly followed by Parsi/Muslim/Northie/every other type. It's a commonly held view that Gujjus inhabit Vile Parle, Parsees inhabit Dadar but a headcount would point otherwise.

'most of them poor' in what sense? The 'poor tamils' that you see there are generally ok and have decent land/property back in TN. Most of the tamils are from south tamil nadu who migrated due to lack of industries and seeking an alternative for agriculture. There are a number of wealthy tams who decide not to move out and reside close to their multiple jewellery/grocery shops/hotels. Once in a train I met a guy who owns multiple jewellery and clothes shops, is a crorepati, and lives in a simple flat in Dharavi!

The Talkative Man said...

taxi passing thru a dharavi street is impossible, when even bicycles have probs getting to the other end ;-)

Prabhu said...

Inna keerthi,
Nee bombay-ku pudusa??
ella bemaniyum tamil pesum ange..

..Dharavi ? U passed thru' that locality ?
Actually,in Mumbai-Tamils are spread out according to their profession-matunga-chembur-dharavi-vileparle-navi mumbai..But,its an Ethnic melting pot..NY madiri :-)
Me missing Mumbai :-(

keerthi said...

The Talkative man, you are probably right.. but this is just a story.. :) and yes, In mumbai owning a flat is like owning a Bunglow.

prabhu, iam missing chennai.. neenga vera

Anonymous said...

Since u said this a story, i will not consider for argument.

you started good, got the nice theme, your decision was acceptable, but your conclusion is not remarkable.

Your neighbour again.

Usha said...

There was a time when i used to go through these struggles about the right thing to do with child beggars. Now a days I don't think about it. I have a 5 re for each of them or if i find them outside a shop I buy them a bun or something to eat. End of story. We pay our taxes honestly hoping there will be no beggars - and I think beyond that, it is just too too much if you struggle with yourself everytime you see them.
That is about the theme. As for the narration, I think it is very honest and makes one idebntify with the speaker.

Me too said...

Asusual, 'Iruvar' style 'story'!!
Most of us would have gone thro' this awkward situations with child beggars. When waiting at signals, seeing the roadside children running towards the vehicles, some holding infants, some falling at feet...
The outer side pouch of my purse would always dangle with change(though I've even experienced the 'che' look on some faces to see my mere 4 anna/8 anna!).

Prabu Karthik said...

vidyasama irundhudhu!:)

keerthi said...

dear neighbour, you said it.. am thinking abt a different ending.

usha, nice policy.. and thanks.

aparna, again a nice policy.. :)

pk, danks.. :)