The paths tread and the places seen, the men and women whose path we crossed, saw, befriended, worked together, irresistibly loved to despise, loved and most of all choose to remember and desired to forget!
It left me wondering the many faces that passed my gaze. The many I may never meet again, the ones I might want longingly to see again. I began to recollect, to rewind, fitfully though from the first day, I could remember back from a long time ago. Some, who fascinated and enthralled me, some who I loved to hate and some who stay lingering in memory poignantly. Yet some who have been instruments of pain and hurt, of disillusionment and deception, of selfishness and opportunism- and to eclipse all that, just instruments of delight. And some who just passed by as non-entities, and stalked as a shadow, often to comeback into memory.
It is assumed by some that a certain person was the instrument of change in them, a harbinger of sort. To me that has been rubbish to this day. I feel, I’m more disposed to my genetic makeup than an external influence of a stranger, a friend, an acquaintance or just some one. That may be a liability of character, because that can also be the reason why I’m incorrigible.
Many may have vanished and eloped into oblivion after enacting their role in a fleeting life that was not out of their volition. What may have happened to them after I saw them last? The ones who may still be surviving- how are they, perhaps will they ever think of me, remember me? Why must they in this melee and frenzy to stay afloat!
I do not remember his name. He was dark complexioned like the many pull rickshaw men in Chennai. He was tall, well-built and sported a khaki half pants and a woven shirt in cotton. There was discoloration of the fabric around his under-arm, obviously the acidic reaction of perspiration from the glands that worked overtime to keep apace in his struggle to eke out. I remember him sporting a towel of myriad colours around the neck- a towel that may have revealed colours that was not meant to be, awash in his sweat and the dust that wedged on it while it was damp with his toil.
I suppose, I give him a name, a typical Tamil name? No, that would be unfair. He will stay as he will in my memory, a shadow of a figure with no name I can think of. He was the pull rickshaw man who unfailingly picked me from home and put me with care in his rickshaw and lugged all the way to a distant convent school in Thambaram. That was in the sixties and I was in the first standard and living in Thambaram , while my father was stationed at the Air Force base there. When it rained as it does cats and dogs in Chennai, he used to ensure that I was cocooned safe from being drenched and put his tarpaulin envelope around the passenger area of the rickshaw. And then lug the rickshaw to the school in the torrent and along the streets which soon would be a sewage canal. He would then carry me, my school and lunch bags around his shoulder, and like a juggler, handle a rickety umbrella too, so that I was protected from the rain. And he would leave me safe inside the class room. He was affable and pleasant, I can remember, but do not however recall what he had to talk to me all the while- to me a five year old. In the late afternoon after the school, he was punctual at the class room door to take me back home. I must have called him “mama” as it is always so in Tamilnad – a respectful term for an elder, irrespective of his eminence. I can barely recall through the haze of the years that have went by, the bond that developed between the two of us. But that lasted for a year and I was shifted out of Tamilnad.
There is nothing much I can reminisce of him and the time he pulled his rickshaw with me in it. But years after and often I wonder about this man, whose scanty image is etched somewhere and it comes out lingering. Today it did!
That was forty seven years ago. And he would be, I suppose one hundred or there about if he is alive. Else, let he be in peace after a life that must have been hard on him.