Not mine! :D
There is something very special about the way rickshaw pullers of Kolkata think and talk. Here are a few examples:
1. There is a steep slope just near the Kavi Nazrul metro station. While going back to home after obtaining enough supply of vegetable and fish from bazaar, often I take that short cut. As the road is crowded always, most of the time, I remain very cautious while crossing that slope on a rickshaw.
That day, as always, the road was very crowded, I requested the rickshaw puller to drive safe. A woman was walking at the middle of the road to avoid road side sludge created by seasonal rain. The rickshaw puller, kept on shouting, “boudi side din, boudi side din” (Sister-in-law let me pass! All young married women are universally addressed Boudi or sister-in-law here in Kolkata) without using the bell or the honk.
The lady took left side of the road, and when we crossed her, she bitterly said:“Horn dite parona?”(Why don’t you ring the bell?) The rickshaw puller gave an impromptu answer: “Keno? Mukhe bollam, bhalo laglona?” (Why? Did not like it when I asked you orally?)
The lady I am sure had nothing to say in return!
2. The grocery shop delivers packaged drinking water on regular basis. They send it on rickshaw and then the driver carries the 5 ltr. bottle up to our floor at the door step where we pay him for his labor.
That day, while picking up my son from his school, I informed the rickshaw puller that I need to get water bottle from the shop. He waited while the men at the shop placed the bottle on the rickshaw. In front of my apartment he stopped and as we stepped down, I waited for him to carry the bottle upstairs. He remained still on his seat. Finally I asked him to take that bottle to the floor, and also asked him not to worry; he would be paid for that.
He did not show any symptom of following what I said, instead he said, “Ei dhoroner kaaj ami korina! Kono jinish boye niye jaina kokhono” (I don’t do this type of work of carrying heavy things).
Then I asked: Why? Are you unwell? Or suffering from any type of inability?
He said: Na na, ami bhaloi achhi, kintu ami to mutey- mojur noi, peter daye rickshaw chalai…amar ki kono shomman nei? Taka dileo ami korina (I am not a laborer. I drive rickshaw for my bread and butter that does not mean I have no honor. Even money cannot make me do this.)
I was so very much surprised to listen to an answer such as this! But then I had no one to help me carry that bottle up to my flat. So I requested him: Ei dekho to, ami to tomake agei bollam jol nebo, tumi keno tokhon na korlena? Amar ei chheleke niye, ei bhari bottle ta oporey ki kore nebo boloto? (You did not say that you could not carry the bottle. Now, when I am alone with a small kid, how am I supposed to get this bottle to my home?)
At this argument he seemed to soften a bit. The he said: Thik ache, apnar jonno ami eta niye jachchi ajke. (Okay the, for you only I am carrying this bottle today)
He did, he carried that bottle to my doorstep. I paid him. While paying I thanked him for his help and then added: Dada, ekta kotha boli. Kono kaj chhoto noi. Ar ei kotha thik noi je apni rickshaw tanen, ar je thela gari tane tar kono shomman nei. Khete khawa shob manusher I shomman thake. Apni rickshaw- i tanun ar mathar opor bosthai tanun, jotodin nijer peter bhat jogar korte loker kachhe haat na patben, totodin apni shommanio byakti. Ei kotha mone rakhben. (Let me tell you something, when you drive a rickshaw, in no way you are much respectable than a person who carries luggage on his head for earning bread and butter. Everyone who sells labor is respectable. You will lose respect only when you start begging in front of others. Remember this.)
I was expecting a few philosophical bitter words in return…but he remained silent and went away.