SEP 15, 11 (1/2) .. RICKSHA MAN / CALCUTTA

Yesterday afternoon.. when I was visiting Mrs Brinnand.. she asked me if I wanted to rest.. and I said “YES!” with emphasis.. her room is lovely and enormous.. it must be 20 feet square .. and it is bordered on three sides by windows that are kept open for the breeze.. overhead are four (4) count them ceiling fans slowly moving the moist air.. there is her bed and two others..

Well just as I lay down.. a MONSOON RAIN BEGAN.. the breeze picked up and the rain just BEGAN TO BEAT DOWN WITH A MOST HYPNOTIC RHYTHM.. and I was ‘out like a light’ and I mean I was o-u-t!

When I awoke after an hour of  rest I was COMPLETELY and I was TOTALLY RELAXED AND REFRESHED.. I had ‘caught’ the PERFECT NAP..

As it turned out.. I needed to have been relaxed and refreshed.. Swapan and I caught the 24A bus and I made a mid-course correction and went downtown into the heart of Calcutta.. DALHOUSIE SQUARE.. the rain had caused its usual flooding..

I got to the G.P.O.  (General Post Office) which is like my ‘home away from home’ and had my usual giggle.. THE G.P.O. said post cards cost RS 15 to mail but only of a certan small size.. my Post Office on Park Street sold me RS 12 stamps for post cards.. India.. go figure..

I walked a long walk back to Chowringhee .. in the dark and wet.. and visited the Sudder Street area.. the HEART of the Backpackers and in which Area I have stayed many times..

Kitty’s son Alfred had told me of hotels there with Air Conditioning much less expensive than the Taj Mahal I am in.. he was spot-on.. I can get an AC Room for RS 900.. at the Galaxie Hotel..

I pay RS 2,500 in my ‘Taj’ on A.J.C. Bose Road across from the Mother House.. AND SUDDER STREET IS THE HAPPENING PLACE..

The ‘catch’ .. there is ALWAYS A CATCH.. is this.. my ‘Taj’ room has windows that look out on the city streets.. it is up on the third floor and so I can sit and look out and just watch.. it is ‘airy and across from the Mother House.. and has an excellent restaurant within the hotel.. I also know local shop owners who treat me well.. the Galaxie AC room is on the ground floor with NO WINDOWS out..

THE REAL CATCH IS THIS.. I CAN AFFORD TO STAY AT THE ‘TAJ’.. I do not really need to save twenty five buckaroos a night.. yet the Galaxie is ‘calling’ to me..

So it was now late.. and I was tired .. and it was hours past dark.. and wet.. and you got it.. as I was ‘idling my way along’ .. (idling.. walking slowly and idly) .. a local ricksha man asked me if I wanted him to take me to the Mother House.. he was old.. and he was scrawny as only old ricksha men can be.. he had white hair and white beard..

I said “How many Rupees” and he said “Fifty” and I slowly kept walking..

Then the magic.. LORD GOD THIS IS A MAGIC PLACE SOMETIMES ISN”T IT.. this old man.. with pleading in his eyes.. he may not have had a ‘fare’ all day.. and one fare could have been THE DIFFERENCE FOR HIM.. began walking along beside me.. leaving his ricksha.. and talking to me..

Then he hit me with the KILLER BLOW!.. he said THAT WORD.. the ONE WORD THAT SLAYS MY HARD HEART..

Quietly he almost murmured.. “BABA.. as you like!” .. looking up at me (LORD he could not have been more than Five Feet Two Inches.. and weighed 80 pounds.. ) with PLEADING IN HIS EYES.. he was saying.. “BABA pay me whatever you like.. I really ..I REALLY NEED A FARE”..

So we walked back down the block and I got up onto his old.. very old.. ricksha.. and told him.. “NO HURRY.. SLOW WALK..”..

So we two old men .. together.. idled our way for thirty minutes.. he with bare feet.. through the dark of the Calcutta Alleyway to the Mother House..

When we got to A.J.C. Bose Road he actually turned into traffic and carried me down to the Mother House.. with the cars and busses and motorcycles whizzing past us to our left..

I got off .. gave him a BRAND NEW CRISPY FIFTY RUPEE NOTE.. shook his hand a long time.. then pulled him into my side and hugged him long and strong..


I think I will (and I can) find him and hire him again..


OH YEAH.. all of the locals on the dark and on the mean street.. wizzened eyes wide.. took it all in.. saw me hug the old man.. making mental notes.. BABA is a pretty good guy..


Epilogue – My late night Ricksha Man..

Well I PROMISED MYSELF that I would go and find him and photograph him for you.. and I have done so..


I knew that I could find him.. and I knew exactly where he would be IF HE WAS NOT WORKING.. and I did and he was there..

When I walked up to him he EXCITEDLY EXCLAIMED.. “Baba! You did NOT forget about me!”..  such moments touch your very soul..