How many times do you go to a new city and land up chatting with the auto drivers, the rickshaw pullers, the fruit or vegetable seller or any other street food vendor in the corner of the city. I am sure they are the best people to ask for directions. But it’s not just asking directions, how many times we bother to talk with them, for no rhyme or reason? How many times we want to know about their lives, their village, their children and their countless stories? Or how many times we want to share our stories with someone who is a complete stranger? I know that people in big cities are apprehensive or sometimes do not have the time. We are just too happy listening to music in our phones or i-pods. But sometimes it is in this rush, among this crowd of people, when you talk endlessly to a complete stranger you may find astonishing stories of struggle, happiness and extraordinary things that one may fail to notice otherwise. [caption id="attachment_2564" align="aligncenter" width="648"] A rickshaw puller in Guwahati[/caption]I always try to talk with auto drivers or rickshaw pullers or street food vendors, whenever in a new city. It just amazes me how people travel so far from their homeland to find work or do what they or their families are expert at. In Mysore I've tasted excellent Kulfi’s and “Gadbad” ice-creams (a creamier form of ice cream with nuts and 5-6 flavors served in a glass) made by vendors who come from a district in south-western Rajasthan. Someone told me that so many families have migrated from there that most of the famous Kulfi –sellers in Karnataka are from Rajasthan. Many “chaat” vendors in Bangalore, Mumbai and even Guwahati are from Varanasi, Allahabad and surrounding areas. Many laborers across the country in construction work are from Bihar. In Mumbai, most of the taxi and auto drivers have migrated from Uttar Pradesh. Many a times when in Mumbai, I've merrily chatted with the taxi and auto-drivers and even taken their phone numbers at times so that I can get a ride the next time I am in the city in that area. I've heard their stories of how, when they were teenagers they wanted to earn money and came to Mumbai, and eventually drove taxis and auto-rickshaws. They talk of how difficult and different life is in the city, how difficult it is to earn every penny and to save it, how some of their families are still living in the village or in the cities with them, how they still sometimes long to go back to their villages but it is the necessity to earn which makes them stick to cities. Often they tell me hilarious incidents about how their relatives have come to cities and faced difficulties while boarding a bus or queuing up for water from the only tap in the slum where they had to live. Once an auto driver in Hyderabad told me how he had asked out his girlfriend and eventually convinced her to marry him and how he can’t ever say no to her. He even asked me to marry soon, if I was already dating someone because youngsters can’t be trusted these days! When I told him that I am unemployed and need to find job first he offered to help me find a job through his contacts in a call center, the only prerequisite needed was a good command over English.Unfortunately I am unable to speak Mizo and find it difficult to converse with so many people here. But recently I had been to Guwahati from where I was taking a train to Mumbai. I was in a hurry and took an auto to the station. The driver, Abdul asked me which train I was taking. When I mentioned that I was going to Mumbai he began to tell me about how he lived in the city for seven or eight years and longed to come back to his village in Assam. How the city was harsh, but he met men from every corner of the country and learned how to live in every condition. Now, he is back in Assam, in Guwahati, not far from his village, lives with his family in the city and also owns an auto. His tone reflected his confidence and he was happy living so close to home. Those fifteen minutes made me happy. As he dropped me off at the station I said “Khuda hafiz abdul bhai, khuda ne chaha toh kabhi fir milenge” ( May God b with you Abdul bhai. May be we’ll meet again someday) There are so many people eager to talk and tell you about themselves, all you need to do is lend an ear.
Khuda haafiz Abdul Bhai