The destiny of man is in his own soul.
“Carrot? Should I give you um um um …“He stammered staring at me with uncertainty.
“Half Kg ma’am?” She interrupted, completing the question for him. I looked at her. She seemed just like me, maybe a customer at the little corner bhaji – vegetable stall. The stall next to Motu Uncle’s cottage which he seemed to be managing today.
“Yes, half Kg, half Kg please. ” I repeated to him slowly , half turning to her.
“What’s wrong with him?” I asked, a little shook up. The man was a shadow of his former self. I stared in shock.
“He was so full of life! I can’t believe this. I was passing by and thought about visiting him. I did not know now he runs this stall. What happened to his rickshaw?”
“Oh so you know him too, from before?”
“Ofcourse, Motu Uncle…”
Suddenly she broke into a smile. “Bina, isn’t it you? Battery Bina? I almost did not recognize you without your battery oops glasses!”
I paused and then rushed to hug her.
“Kalpana? Kinetic Kalpana ?
“Eat more ca ca carrot,” We heard him say. And we both turned to look at him, remembering….
“Oye Battery – why did you get chasama – glasses? Eat more Carrot”
“You know whoever gets most marks, gets Peru– Guava and Battery Bina it is! She is our rickshaw sitara –star yet again!”
“Kinetic Kalpana did it again! Great goal! Milind don’t you dare boss over her now!”
That was our Motu uncle – our school Rickshaw-walla. So full of life, he was our tormentor yet our savior. I practically grew up in his rickshaw. First I was among the little ones sitting at the back in the ‘balcony’ seat – behind all the big kids where customers usually put their luggage, that’s when I was in nursery. And over years I was the tai – big sister sitting on the main seat with some little kid on my lap traveling to school. I probably had more fun in his rickshaw, than in school. I probably learnt more in his rickshaw than in school!
Come hail or sunshine, Motu uncle was always there. He would pick us from school and leave us home every during those school years. He was there when our parent’s could not make it for that one important hockey match, cheering us on; And then later yelling at us in the rickshaw for all those fouls. And he was there when that fat kid bullied us and ate our dabba. Of course he was not there when we were late for school third time in a row. We sure had to follow the clock to be in his rickshaw!
He was our hero. Though uneducated himself he encouraged us to excel, to give our best at school. He rewarded us and teased us mercilessly. He helped build us for those life’s little battles, for those big challenges. You know, in life we probably cross paths with so many. Yet there are but a handful besides family who remain in our hearts forever. And Motu uncle was one of them.
Yes, I had not seen him in years. Yes I had almost not come even today. But each time I have seen a little one climbing into her school rickshaw animatedly , it has brought a cheer.
“Eat more Ca Carrot, ” we heard him stammer. His familiar yet distant voice brought me back to reality.
“Carrots , eyes, good!” He gave a toothless grin to the five year old in front of him. And he juggled three carrots.
“Good for eyes!” giggled the kid tugging his mother’s hand to buy carrots.
“Motu uncle had an accident years ago. I guess you are visiting after a long time Bina?” I nodded in reply to Kalpana’s question mesmerized by Motu Uncle’s interaction with the little one.
“He was hit on his head and…” She paused “Then some of us and his friends from the Rickshaw panchayat – we all chipped in and helped setup this vegetable stall. He has given us so much; this is just a drop. Normally his wife is here and he helps her.”
“But you know what?”
She continued with a twinkle
“Motu Uncle has not changed a bit. Yeah he’s lost some weight but he is still a hero, isn’t he? Instead of being bed-ridden he stands tall. He still is a champion, just look at that kid…”
Yes, She did not have to say more. The carrot in the child’s hands and the expression on his mother’s face said it all.
Yes, the destiny of man is in his own soul, i think…