The Other Side
Buried deep beneath the deep crevices of self centered euphoria, agony and emotions lie the few fleeting moments one is able to extend his vision beyond the mundane realms of everyday life to the flipside, what appears to us as the dark side. Call it what you may, history is too partial with odes to the triumphant and shadows of death to the vanquished.
It had all the markings of a quintessential rickshaw journey. Starting off with the usual bargaining, we finally settled on the amicable amount of Rs.50 (More on my legendary bargaining skills later). I should have noticed the signs when he tried to make small talk enquiring about my health. Generally I avoid any sort of conversation with the rickshaw-wallahs so as to simply not expose my exemplary hindi skills. Initially I managed to fend off some questions with the customary smiles and “theek hai” ’s and then the conversation took a turn. For the worse.
Note: Bhaiyya’s conversations were all in Hindi. It is imperative here to mention that I really didn’t get half of what he said. The other half which I supposedly got, again I’m guessing as to what he said. My understanding of hindi is primarily based on my logical skills, limited vocabulary and use of arbit English words here and there which let me pick up the context.
What ensued was total chaos. Read on….
Bhaiyya: Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi……. Twice a day, right. What do you say?
Me: Errrr…. <long pause> Haan Ji. Dhin Mein Dho Bar. Zaroori Hai.
What in the name of Christ are we talking about? Food? Medicine? Tutorials?? God…..
B: It is very important to study no? What do you think?
Me: Haan Ji. Bahut Zaroori Hai. Errr… <pause>… Meh Kya Bhola Tha…. Duniya Aise Hi……
Now what? I wanted to tell him so many things. Getting a good job, earning money and respect in the society. I didn’t know how to translate all this.
B (Proudly): You know what? I failed thrice in my class 8. Can you believe it? 3 Bloody Times.
Me: Nods head… Oh!!!!
What am I supposed to say now? Acha? Theek Hai? Koi Bath Nahi..
It was then that Agony uncle took over and I wanted to tell him that it was okay even if he had not studied much, he could always make his kids study and watch them become big shots though I was not sure how I was going to put all this into words.
Me: Aapki Beta ya Beti hai?
Me: Aapki Shaadi ho gaya kya?
B (Astounded at the question): No.
Wrong question. Bhaiyya became senti and entered rant mode. What made things worse for me was the fact he spoke in some sort of local dialect and I ended up understanding next to nothing. A few snippets.
B: Its been days since I’ve had my food… Days.. Do you know? Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi
And you talk of marriage? Ha! God save me.
(All this while turning at me and asking if he was right)
Me: A sympathetic nod… Sayi Bath hai bhaiyya.
What am I supposed to say?
B: You are getting married.
Who’s the bride?
B: Suppose so. Then what will happen? The bride will come to your house. And then you will lose everything… Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi Arbit Hindi
And then you will be removed (What?) and then you will be alone.
Why me? Why!!!
B: Yes I know it. I am not going to get married. What’s the point? Am I Right?
RJB, Where are you?
B: I am not going to get married. It’s a waste of money. I am unable to take care of myself with the paltry sum I earn, why should I get married? It’s totally useless, I tell you. You must listen to me.
And for a second, he cried… he actually cried. I did not understand his language. Yet, there was some kind of bond between which had transcended all sorts of trivial barriers. I could feel his words. Despite having no where in life come close to starvation, I kind of understood it was hunger which made him speak from his heart and not from the mind. (What I usually criticize people for doing!)
Atlast we entered the hallowed portals of our institute and for once I was overjoyed. As RJB came closer and closer Bhaiyya started singing a melancholy song asking for my approval every now and then. And as we entered RJB, he proclaimed loudly as if he wanted every single IIT’ian to hear.
B: Meh Pandit Hoon!
I have a very weird habit of assuming things and charting out a path for me in the future however unlikely that may seem. I could see it in my mind. Bhaiyya getting senti and refusing to accept money. Me, out of sheer kindness and good heart forcing him to accept money and going back with a good Samaritan feeling. Sadly, he showed his true colours by asking me for ten extra rupees. Terribly pissed at the failure of my premonition, I totally refused and walked away nonchalantly putting the note in his hand.
Despite the ironical ending, the usually unforgiving minute forgave me for I was able to see beyond myself. I saw the other side of the coin. However clichéd this may sound, I was pained that while everyday we crib about the routine aloo subzi and spend hundreds in the canteen, people just around us live a life that we can’t even imagine. And then I returned back to normal. Is life so cruel? Or is it the winner takes all policy that we all have no choice but to accept and move on.
Even as I finish typing this, Wordsworth’s immortal lines ring clearly inside me
“The Music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more”