Dinanath, the Rickshaw Puller

Dinanath used to ferry my mother from home to school and back in his rickshaw. My mother had a monthly arrangement with him. Initially, mother and a student of her were Dinanath’s passenger. Later I also joined the group. Dinanath did not look like a regular rickshaw puller. His mannerisms and his demeanor suggested that he was an educated person. Though he never revealed how far he had studied. We also never asked. 

Those days Kanpur was relatively less populated. Public transport used to be few and far between. Scooters were used by relatively affluent people. Not many people had access to cars.  We also used to walk a lot. Some time for work and at other times just for leisure. I remember, in evenings we would go for a walk as a family. One would not mind walking a mile to go from one point to another. Many people used to commute by bicycle and cycle rickshaw. A rickshaw meant for two passengers, could carry as many as five passengers. 

Like people decorate their cars these days, cycle rickshaws used to be beautified. Conscientious owners / drivers would wash their vehicle regularly. Seats would get a protective cover. Like hub cap of car wheels, rear wheels of a rickshaw would have metal cap to protect ball bearings. Shinier the better. Handle bar would have colourful  protective cover. Good rickshaw would have a good sounding bell. A smart professional driver would also pull his vehicle fast through crowd. Speedier the better. A good rickshaw and a smart driver could demand higher fare, almost one and a half time the regular fare.

 Vehicle that Dinanath used to ply was not very well decorated.  On to of that, Dinanath was an extremely slow driver. At his speed, he should arrive at least 15 min before time. He used to come on time, but my mother would reach school on an average ten min late. Meanwhile, I also joined the same school where my mother was teaching. Repeated entreaty to come early and/or drive faster never yielded any result. Dinanath would smile but drive at his own pace. I was thoroughly disenchanted with Dinanath. All other rickshaws would fly past us, while we crawled along. The evenings when Dinanath would not show up, I used to be the happiest. At least that day we would hire a rickshaw that not only looked good but also rode fast.

One morning, as ususal Dinanath came at his time. He gave me stickers of a political party. He wanted me to pin one to my shirt. He also taught me a limerick, “langde loole bahre kaan, congress ki wohi pahachan”. Being totally apolitical 9 year old, I never understood then what it implied.  There was a lot of consternation among my fellow students, when I repeated the slogan and stickers fell out of my bag. “so are you in politics?” asked one of my friends. Class teacher called me up and pinched my ear. “What is happening these days? Young boys are joining politics! Does your mother know of your activity? How many marks did you score in your half yearly exam? You moron!” I did not have much to say or show for. So I stood quietly. 

I do not know what had transpired among adults. Dinanath stopped coming from next morning. A few days later, he came to collect payment due to him. I was taking a nap. He greeted me with a smiling face. He asked me politely, “how are you son? continue with studies and do well in life.” He was not bitter for losing his job. Dinanath left soon after. Later I learnt from my father that Dinanath was associated with Jan sangh. I never met him thereafter. But I remember his quiet dignity. 

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