Saturday, August 8, 2009

Malls, Rickshaw and a pair of socks!

After four years of Engineering, I got job at this reputed multi national firm. The best part I was in Gurgaon, near Delhi home to the best North Indian food and hottest girls in India. I was overwhelmed by the sudden change and welcomed it with arms stretched wide. I was still passing my idle time of final year when I got a call from the company’s HR department that I need to be present in person to collect the letter of appointment and also undergo the routine medical check up.
The farewell parties, booze parties, grass parties and all sorts of nonsense final year parties were going full speed and it was a pain to miss any one of them. But, what choice I had. I planned to go reluctantly. “Formal clothing” is one of the many things that a student has to graduate to when he steps into the professional world. I relate formal clothing to formal thinking, formal planning and formal implementation of thoughts, ideas and actions. While casual denotes liberation, formal denotes discipline both having their own beauty. Anyways, I was devoid of any formal attire and I was supposed to wear formals at the place. And hence started my hunt for formal clothes, I could not find any. Our wardrobes were cluttered with un-pressed shirts, mud soaked jeans, dirty socks and underwears but I managed to grab two pieces of clothes; a shirt and a trouser which were very near to what formal clothes are, but I could not find a pair of clean socks. “There are lots of malls on MG road, buy socks from one of them what is the big deal”, suggested one of my friend who was an inhabitant of Gurgaon.
Eight hours of train journey and I was here in Gurgaon. They call it the Shanghai of India, the millennium city. Skyscrapers, Offices, IT parks, Discotheques, Pubs and lots and lots of Malls, Gurgaon is very different from Lutyen’s Delhi which is still a bit old, classy and tattered. Limousines, Mercedes and BMWs were speeding around and I was enjoying the polished look of the city. In offices people draped in finest clothes and speaking on the costliest phones were walking around. This is modern India where people don’t think before spending and I would be a part of this elite crowd very soon. But for now I had to go to the office and I had three hours in hand and had to buy a pair of socks first. There were beautiful malls standing around.

I went to one of them, but the Mall was devoid any sort of crowd. I enquired with the gatekeeper and he said “It’s Tuesday and very limited stores are open today and no clothing shop is open so try other malls.” I went to other malls and they had similar answers. And I was disgusted, how do I go to the office without socks? There was a rickshaw waiting near the mall. I went to him and asked if there was any garment shop around so that I can buy a pair of socks. The Rickshaw puller, a frail person, with pepper and salt hair and sun burnt skin was looking like an ugly patch on the shining Gurgaon outfit. He said there would be no shops open; he can try in the nearby Chakkarpur market but can not guarantee. I had no option so I obeyed him in dismay and the Rickshaw sped towards the destination.
I have this curious habit of talking to people around so I started chatting with him. I came to know that his name was "Kishan" and he was from some small town in West Bengal. He came to Delhi 15 years back in search of a job; preferably a gate keeper’s job but he could not get any. He then, sold some belongings in his home to buy a Rickshaw and hence started his story. He moved to Gurgaon three years back because according to him in Delhi there is a fierce competition and he wanted to live in peace. We were in Chakkarpur market and all the shops were closed and hence now I had no place to go. Gurgaon the place of shining malls had no shop that could offer me a pair of socks.
Seeing my worried face, now the Rickshaw puller slipped in the chatty mood. He enquired “What is that you require so urgently?”.
Nothing, not your business anyways”, I replied.
Okay, but you can at least tell me, may be I can help you out!”, he continued.
You can surely help me, only if you have a clothes store of your own”, I was still frustrated
Tell me, I’ll try to help you out”, he replied
Alrite, I need a pair of socks, now tell me how can you help me out”, I said.
I can help you for sure but only if you agree to take my socks, they are brand new”, he replied.
What, your socks”, I said more to myself than to him
Okay, only if they are new”, I continued.
Sure sir lets move, you are getting late”. He replied and indicated me to take a seat.
And the Rickshaw sped again. We passed the same Offices and Malls and he turned into one of the lanes. The Roads started becoming narrower and narrower and the scenes around changed drastically. The skyscrapers were now 1 storey high houses with crumbling cement and weathered paints. The malls were not there, I saw one or two low lit damp shops but they had customers flocking. There was no elite crowd in fine clothing and expensive phones but people walking around in dirty torn clothes. There were no BMWs around, I saw Rickshaws, so many of them parked neatly near the building boundaries.
What place is this, looks horrible”, I enquired
Horrible to you, home to us, anyways this is my home, come on get down, I’ll give you my socks.” He answered.
I entered his place. There were 8-9 rooms in a line and all of them housed a full family. The roofs were low and ground was damp. There was a hand pump outside where people were bathing and many were waiting for their turn. But they were looking like a society where one man was pushing the hand pump bar, the other was bathing and the third was cleaning the floor. I entered inside his so called home. It was very small for a family of four. He opened a trunk, put aside some clothes and then pulled out a pair of brand new navy blue socks. I took them greedily.
So do you wear shoes too, otherwise why did you purchase socks?”, I asked
I seldom wear them, I have an old pair of shoes but one of my cousins is getting married next month”, he replied
I hence bought my wife a new saree and kids new clothes, did not have much money left for me so bought socks for now, would buy shirt if I happen to save something”, he finished and smiled bluntly.
Why was he smiling? I was clueless. I was still in the millennium city where people do not think before spending money. In the same city a hardworking Rickshaw Puller could buy only a pair of socks from all his savings. I tried giving him money but he did not accept that. He said “You are still studying, once you start earning come here and pay me back”. Persuasion was useless because he was an obstinate honest person. I agreed and he dropped me back to the make-believe world. Here I was, sitting in an Air conditioned room wearing an artificial smile on the face.
After I joined the firm, I went back to the place to pay him back but I came to know that the man has left this place. No body had a clue as to where he is at present. They said that sometimes he is seen pulling his rickshaw around in Gurgaon. I would indeed love to see him back and thank him for what ever good he did to me. Through this story I just wanted to tell him that a person in the elite crowd still owes a pair of socks to him.


Abhinav said...

Awesome buddy.....
nice channelization of thoughts... and a superb closing line... :)

Kam said...

Nice expressions and experience.

techie_mishra said...

Thanks Abhinav and Kam. Truth is stranger than fiction and this incidence made me believe on this!

Anonymous said...

Passed by ur blog from ur orkut profile !! It indeed is awesome !!

dimu said...

Awesome Blog, read it four times in one go...yu Rock man

Atul Kumar Mishra said...

Thank yu Mr. Anonymous and Dimu!!

R S said...

and excellent account of various visible opposing facets of life...
truly commendable...

Atul Kumar Mishra said...

Thanks R S :-)