The roadside philosopher


My jacket, muffler, cap and the gloves were on. I glared at my bike and I was sure infinite kicks were on the cards, I was not sure, whether infinity will arrive or not. So, I decided to walk. Walking in winters when you are thoroughly covered up can be therapeutic, as Rumi says, “When you walk, angels whisper.”
Fog overpowering the very existence of Sun, the brutal chilly wind trouncing the comfort of the breeze, the moist dog-less serene streets were enough to transform my loneliness into solitude. The absolute aura of winter morning without any hustle bustle of the day is quite a moment to live by. Finally, I arrived on the main street where people were sitting beside fire at a nearby tea stall. I did not wonder even for a moment why fire and tea of Englishmen were considered to be the finest discoveries of the mankind. And, I ordered my chai.
Listening to real India speaking in a local dialect at a tea stall can really add finesse to one’s wisdom. While everyone was shivering, I noticed a man lying over his rickshaw in just a stitched shirt and torn trousers. I could not resist asking him, “Miyan tumhe thand nahi lag rahi hai,” he didn’t even bother to look at me and responded with menacing lines that can put even the greatest philosophers to embarrassment, “Bhai gareeb ko sirf bhook aur pyaas lagti hai, baaki sab fanaa hai, (A destitute man can only feel hunger and thirst, rest all is destroyed for him) and he puffed his beedi like a cigar, leaving me dumbstruck.
The roadside life of northern part of India is full of agonies and daily struggles and it’s really heart rendering to observe that life. Mahatma Gandhi had famously said,
“There are people in the world so hungry that GOD cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Hunger is the only gruesome fact of their lives. I was baffled to wonder whether poverty needs a blanket or bread, or perhaps poverty had no priority. Poor had only one choice that is Hobson’s choice in the form of bread.
With hundreds of thoughts running in my stoned mind, I decided to walk away. My thoughts and my walk were not in synchrony. Suddenly, I heard a distant mellifluous voice of Mohd Rafi on the radio. The radio, which is such an integral part of roadside life in India belted out, “Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har fikr ko dhuyein mein udta chala gaya and my thoughts went straight to the rickhshaw walah puffing his beedi and trying to find comfort in the fog. I told myself, only the poor know the real difference between melancholy and bliss, not us.-