circa 1985, h.p. india.

circa 1985, h.p. india.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

the trickshaw wallah.


one of the first places i wanted to visit in india was bodh gaya, the place where the buddha allegedly gained enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree.

i arrived in the night by train at the nearby much larger town of gaya and was immediately mobbed by a bunch of rickshaw wallah. i jumped onto one rickshaw and asked the driver to take me to the buddhist vihara. the guy peddled along steadily for what seemed like a heck of a long time, but i'd been told it was close to the train station. i tried to ask why it was taking so much time, mostly by barking at him uselessly in english with accompanying hand-gestures, and i became increasingly anxious after each time he'd smile back at me reassuringly. mercifully, he finally pulled up beside a building and motioned that we'd arrived. i paid what felt like a pile of rupees, but i was still almost completely unfamiliar with the currency at that point. anyway, i checked in, went to bed and slept the sleep of the dead.

in the morning, one of the red-and-orange-robed monks brought me a great cup of chai and a terrible plate of toast. once i readied myself for the world, i got up onto my hind legs, climbed down the concrete stairs, through the small terrazo lobby and out into the already oppressively hot sunlight. the state of bihar was in the grips of a prolonged and crippling heat wave. it took me a bit before my eyes adjusted to the light, and then the very first thing i saw, right across the circle, was the train station.

the realization that i'd been cheated catapulted me into a terribly unpleasant state of mind. it was not pretty. i recalled the british couple i met in delhi who were dissolution-ed with india because they'd been ripped-off, twice. i strode purposely over to the station, to where dozens of cycle rickshaw wallah stood patiently waiting for a train, any train. obviously, finding the very driver who'd cheated me, in amongst that crowd, would be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, but i was sure gonna try. i began searching the eager faces of each one. and, as i did, i couldn't help noticing their worn-out rags, their emaciated bodies even while smiling, chattering, smoking their beedees and chewing paan. many were old, some coughing and wheezing. every one of them had that lean hungry look and i started calculating how much, in fact, i'd been cheated: approximately $2.50 cdn. i walked on, to a corner store.      

the proprietor produced a warm 'campa cola' from out of the refrigerator, opened it for me and i sat down on a nearby curb against a big tree. i sipped the warm cola as i scanned the busy morning market, everyone bustling, hustling, when a bird actually fell out of the tree and landed with a pathetic little thud beside me. 

4 comments :

  1. You let go...then a bird let go. (and by the way, I have often wondered why, given the multitudes of birds in the world, we never seem to see any fall from the sky. That little bird was lucky to have a witness.)

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    1. i doubt the little bird felt gratified to have had a witness... 😊

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  2. rickshaw cost- years ago i decided to name this phenomena the "gringo surcharge".

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