Ram Singh got back to education as he spoke fondly of his five-year-old daughter. He had dropped off a customer at the Kendriya Vidyalaya and was waiting for her to pay, when he asked her how good this school was. She said to him, there is a lucky draw every once in a while. Put your daughter’s name in it. You never know. Apparently, he was this nice to all his customers and they all ended up learning about him during the course of a ride; and he about them.
He took her advice and got his daughter into the school. But his wife still has a problem. She wanted the child to go to a private school. She also wanted him to buy land sooner, for him to have a better job, et al. And here he is, smiling his way through life, relating anecdote after anecdote and telling me that he stays out until 11 in the night so that he stays out of her way. And he talks to people so that he doesn’t miss his kids too much. They are asleep by the time he gets home, and still asleep when he leaves. Hard working and making full use of a democratic system? Yes, that’s our man.
He asked me why I had taken his rickshaw number. I candidly told him. What he said next reflected the ideals of peace feminism and a call to affirmative action. He first started out by assuring me that I will meet more good people than bad in this, or any city. A bad episode gets hyped up in the media because it draws mass sympathy. But no one is going to tell you about an average, good day: that is common place and lacks excitement. I agreed. He said, what happened to that girl in December 2012; it was very sad. But sadly, maybe fate had that in store. And when it is decreed by fate, there is little you can do to prevent something. Yes, one must be careful, he said. And this is where he took me by surprise.
In India, where a girl is invariably blamed during a mishap for her clothing or demeanour, this uneducated man said that these things were not even an issue. It was refreshing to find an open-minded person. Being safe is. He would, he said, never drop of a lady in a lonely spot. And he would ask his male passengers to be careful as well. That is simply about being sensible. And a lady needs to remember that for better or for worse, she is a minority, not because of anything else, but the fact that a drunken thug would have much more physical power.
He has spoken with a lot of ladies, even been offered a cigarette by an American lady, and holds women-folk in high esteem. Yet, he does not judge: smoking, clothing and demeanour be damned. He is more concerned with being of service and making people smile, and that is what he does.
I asked him my final question as we were nearing my house. “Do you know about the Telangana?” On this he had a refreshingly open stance, “to each his own, madam. On one hand, you wonder how many pieces they will chop off one little finger. But then, they must have had their reasons and self-esteem to have demanded what they did for so long. All for the best!”
And with that, he delivered me safely home and true to character, refused to take the extra tip I offered. I went back home that democracy and the related ideals of governance in one, has been met fair & square for this common man. He may not have told me things that I did not already know, but he did so with the simplicity bereft of agenda and judgment. Yet, he was open to others’ views as well. I had met the real aam aadmi, the great Indian common man!