My rather rocky relationship with Mumbai rickshaws goes back six years, ever since I stepped into Andheri West and realized that while Mumbai ricks are so much more economical than their Delhi counterparts, they are also that much harder to catch.
Over the years, I’ve gotten used to the disgusted looks they give when you mention your destination (Like…eewww…who goes to Oshiwara?!), the way they don’t even bother stopping while you try to flag them down, or how they’re suddenly more precious and rarer than diamonds when it rains. And it rains a lot in this city!
In fact, I’ve faced more rejection by Mumbai rickshaw-wallas than men and employers put together in my life.
And they taught me how to abuse in Hindi. Like, not actually taught me, but that’s what comes out when they refuse to take you where you want to go after an hour of being stuck on the road looking for them.
So last night, I was standing on the highway at a spot where usually it’s not that difficult to spot an empty rick, but thanks to the torrential rain they were nowhere to be seen. And slowly more and more people started crowding up looking for that knight in yellow-and-green armour, who when he would slowly roll by without stopping, would get his pick of destinations to go to.
And then, miraculously, I managed to flag one down, but the idiot in Schumacher mode, only managed to stop in front of another guy standing much further down the road. And the guy was about to get in, but then probably saw a desperate me huffing puffing down the wet road towards him, and offered the rick to me instead.
Now this might be the way it should have been, and this might be the city with amazing people, but I’ve barely ever witnessed either in my years here.
And so, I was shocked, not even just pleasantly surprised.
And so I decided to shock myself, and share the rick with him.
This might not sound like a big deal, but for any girl born and brought up in Delhi, offering to share your cab / rick with an unknown stranger at night is like going against the first rule of how to stay safe in this world.
But for once, I decided to repay his niceness with gratitude.
I did however barely talk to him throughout, or share my name or any details about me. Old habits die hard.
But I did turn the rick and take it into a galli out of my way to drop him at his friend’s house.
I did smile when he parted with an apple for a little beggar girl (the same one who loves fleecing people at Juhu circle every day) from the packet of apples he got from Kashmir for his friend.
And I did feel better after the ride, even if it meant I reached home a little late.
It’s sad that we live in a world where we have to think twice before doing something that should come as basic human nature to us. It’s sad that we’re all so hardened and cynical that any niceness offered is met with skepticism.
And it’s sad, that all that cynicism, is necessary.