The Chronicles of Miss Shola

The blog's epitaph: Miss Shola came and went as she pleased

Fifth Sense

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The other day I encountered the digital fare meter of the rickshaw for the first time. My usual question of “kitna hua bhaiya?” was answered by the unusual “aap dekh lo” followed by a stifled sigh. There it was bigger, shinier with many digits blinking on it in crimson zealousness. I missed the old warm and almost shy-to-show-the-reading meter instantly. It must have been this expression that prompted the rickshaw-wallah to pour out his woes. He started off with a dramatic “ab toh marne ke din aa gaye hain…” that obligated me to pause a few minutes longer. He continued to explain how the now-mandatory digital meter shows a reduced (and incorrect) fare and thereby impacts the daily income of his ilk. Most of them don’t own the vehicles themselves and make their wage from the fare they collect through the day minus the rickshaw rental. All Mumbai-ites whether they use public transport or not, are aware of the unending battle of the meter between the rickshaw unions and the state authorities. These black and yellow odd-shaped creatures that zip through thick and thin carrying all shapes and sizes, spell the road traffic dynamics of the nether part of the city. It is difficult not to know and not to take sides. I have my views on it too, but this is not about that.

In an unrelated episode that occurred soon after, a colleague came up to my desk during the slower half of the day to narrate her predicament. Her old spinster aunt had been suffering from jaundice and she, the only able and available person in a large family far flung across the world, had taken on the responsibility to get her hospitalized. One diagnosis led to another and after many tests whose acronyms she knew at the back of her hand, there was suspected malignancy in the liver and gall bladder. The hospital she was admitted in advised her to be moved to a larger one with more amenities. From a modest background with only energy in her arms and commitment on her shoulders she soldiered on as most relatives backed out one after another. Many more tests were conducted including the much required biopsy, and much money was spent. In hindsight, my colleague felt, the doctors at the first hospital fleeced them on unnecessary procedures that didn’t contribute to the diagnosis. The aunt is still in the hospital awaiting results and the colleague is hoping they are nearing the end of the ordeal and not the beginning of another. First-hand experiences or not, we all have our opinions on and ways of dealing with the supposedly flawed healthcare system. Some have been able to get around it, some have been swallowed by it like quicksand, and the few that remain are awaiting their turn on the fence. It affects most when the means are limited, options are few and consequences are best left unsaid.

Which brings me to Ramesh. Young, sprightly, multifaceted, he’s officially the driver of the family but can morph into a mean plumber, a sharp electrician, a fine pest controller when the opportunity arises. He makes good money for being the driver cum man Friday of a busy household, but just can’t seem to save enough. Of course he has a house rent to pay, family of a wife and child to feed, school education to plan for, but then there are vices that take no time in digging a hole in the pocket. Ramesh can’t handle the extra money, the one that goes a rupee over monthly survival expenses, and spends it all at the local country liquor bar. His wife curses him, his neighbours beat him, his employers mock him but he just can’t seem to give up. When he is back to his efficient sound self the next morning he is repentant but the deed has been done. To rid himself of the habit, he has even made a journey to that revered stone deity in his village, but the gods don’t seem to listen. In an emotionally charged moment, he confessed that he understood the implications of his indulgence well but needed to vent his frustration, this of the daily struggle of life, and found no better way.

These are just three instances of the tribulations of today that people are in the face of, or see through another’s eyes as I have. So much has been said about cases like these, and there is still some more to be said. So much has been done but there is scope to do a lot more. There are adjectives to express emotions and there are verbs to elicit help. It is an everlasting strife and the torchbearers that change lives for the better are few. So what do people like me do in the meanwhile? Those who lack a larger mission, who are non-contributors in the state of society, who have the empathy but not the courage?

Maybe it’s the power of listening that can rescue us from our inaction. Maybe all it takes to feel the pain, show solidarity and extend help is nothing more than a patient ear.

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Written by Miss Shola

June 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Ramblings

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