Those Two Rupees…

Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people.

Garrison Keillor

“Babu, will you please give me two rupees more than your usual rickshaw-bhadda (fare)?”

The poor rickshaw-puller innocently asked me on my way to Sheltar Chak from Barabati Bali Yatra (one of the traditional carnivals of Odisha) Maidan.

Before I could say anything, he added, “I’m just requesting, don’t give if you don’t approve it”

I retorted back with irritation. “But, you had agreed for six rupees as the bhadda, why two rupees more?”

He was mum for some time and then said, “I’m falling short of  two rupees”.

From what?”, I questioned him again threateningly…

I’m falling short of two rupees to buy a Milk Dabba (can) for my 6-month old baby. I’ve collected thirty-eight rupees only from my entire day’s rickshaw- pulling, and the Milk Dabba costs forty rupees”.

I tried to open my mouth to say something. Before I could say anything, he stopped the rickshaw, looked back, saw my face and said, “no problem, I just requested you, if you don’t want.. don’t give, will wait for some more time and by God’s grace, I hope I will be able to earn two rupees more”.

Then he started paddling towards my home. After a couple of minutes, he murmured to himself (addressed to his kid), “By the time I collect two rupees more, shops will be closed, and you (his kid) will have to sleep again in hunger tonight”.

It was 11 P.M. at night in the month of November, quite late for the eastern part of India. He was pulling me in his cycle-rickshaw to my brother’s place in Cuttack. I was in my 12th standard at that time, studying at Ravenshaw College. That evening, I got late watching music and dance numbers in the famous Habib Melody. No one agreed to go for a fare of six rupees; all the rickshaw-walas (pullers) were charging ten to twelve rupees. I was bit surprised when this rickshaw-wala had agreed for six rupees after a moment’s thought. May be he was a bit calculative at that time and thought of losing the chance to earn four to six rupees more, just to get that Milk Dabba home in time. Even though he fell short of two rupees, he did not lose faith on his profession.

It is a 10-15 minute journey by rickshaw from Barabati Stadium to Sheltar Chak. In the entire conversation, I was silent for most of the time, thinking about him, his 6-month old baby, me, my friends and the society in general. I was not that matured at that time to understand everything. During Bali Yatra, I found some people throwing money on anything and buying trinkets indiscriminately. But the same people would have gone to any extent to bargain with a poor rickshaw-wala. I too had spent a lot from my pocket-money on eating and watching melodies and operas. Whereas the rickshaw-wala was struggling to save forty rupees by a whole day’s toil, in order to feed his small kid (forget about himself and his other family members).

The value of two rupees for him was the value of his kid’s life, whereas it had no meaning at all for some other people. Such is the denomination of money- something which has no value for someone might be a whole life for somebody else.

Those two rupees ….. aamjunta think about it.

21 Responses

  1. Dear Aamjunta,
    Nice thoughts, which have been narrated beautifully, however, I feel It is not the “denomination of money, some thing which has no value for someone might be a whole life for some body else”, as you have put across but the values of the man in need, the protagonist of the event you have narrated.
    Quite often we find that the core values of life are depicted by people who need them the least. Is this the reason they stay contended even though they fall further into deprivation.

  2. Thanks Rajnish for sharing your thought, You are absolutely right. Yes, it is not the denomination of money I’m highlighting. By saying “Those two rupees ….. aamjunta think about it” — I just opened the thread. Two things I wanted to emphasize in this article: (a) Don’t give up, keep trying honestly till you achieve (rickshaw puller was ready to wait for some more time to earn two more) (b) The value of the money or any other resource is different for different people. One has to understand that before spending (some time wasting/throwing).

  3. That’s a powerful phrase: “Such is the denomination of money”.
    However, from the way you’ve narrated it, I felt as if the rickshaw puller was selling a sob story — somewhat like how we crib about getting less marks in our exams (“give me two marks more, my career is at stake”). But then again maybe the rickshaw puller was telling the truth.

  4. Yes, you might be right. But, I doubt! This is because as I narrated –“No one agreed to go with a fare of Rs 6/-, all the rickshaw-walas were charging Rs 10-12/-. I was bit surprised, when this one agreed for Rs 6/- after a moment’s thought.” He could have charged some more too, which he did not (Usually people charges 7-9 for that distance).

    There is nothing to dis-belief and it is up to the individual to decide whether it is a sob story or not.
    Some time we should believe from a human angle, and that too in the late night. Infact one can read the face.

    Comparing marks with life is not appropriate. There is no alternative and one can’t get more marks once the exam is over or result is out (except by cribs!). In the other case, the rickshaw puller was quite confident to earn two more if he waits some more time. He had alternatives, but that was too late.

  5. Really a mind boggling thought.
    Can we add the following lines which are somewhat similar to this.

    To realize
    The value of a sister
    Ask someone
    Who doesn’t have one.

    To realize
    The value of ten years:
    Ask a newly
    Divorced couple.

    To realize
    The value of four years:
    Ask a graduate.

    To realize
    The value of one year:
    Ask a student who
    Has failed a final exam.

    To realize
    The value of nine months:
    Ask a mother who gave birth to a still born.

    To realize
    The value of one month:
    Ask a mother
    who has given birth to
    A premature baby.

    To realize
    The value of one week:
    Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.

    To realize
    The value of one hour:
    Ask the lovers who are waiting to Meet.

    To realize
    The value of one minute:
    Ask a person
    Who has missed the train, bus or plane.

    To realize
    The value of one-second:
    Ask a person
    Who has survived an accident…

    To realize
    The value of one millisecond:
    Ask the person who has won a silver medal in the Olympics

    To realize the value of a friend:
    Lose one.

  6. 1. From the business mind it shows the rikshaw bala’s policy.
    2. From the common life it shows the value of 2 rupees even can make difference to make stop something to happen.
    3. From individual life we should be ready to provide some solution to every problem( either to self thinking about our duty at this time or about his problem). Rather we shouldn’t leave it and simply avoid any confusions whether to give 2more rupees or not. So decission regarding to make him happy or self happy was completely required at that moment, so that thought at later case could have been minimised.

  7. Very touching.
    But we have seen so many demanding auto drivers we find it hard to believe genuine auto drivers.

  8. Very Nice.

  9. One mans two rupees , the other mans milk..Such are the ways of life. Thanks for sharing aamjunta.

  10. Touchy story. While reading this, I could remember the story of another rickshaw puller from Jaipur who was forced to carry his one month old baby with him after his wife’s death. There are a few good people in society and because of them only we still can feel that there is life and humanity in the society.

  11. Thanks Shiva, Thumbelina, Our Jaipur and Rajesh for your comments.

    @Shiva:I am sure many of us have experienced some thing similar or the other. The story of the rickshaw-wala from Jaipur is very touchy… thank god, media’s intervention had helped him to certain extent.

    @Thumelina:Life is very complex and very simple. The choice is ours only. Thanks again.

    @Rajesh:True, finding an honest man is very tough.

  12. This is such a thought provoking piece. But, in today’s world people who cheat are far more common than real honest people. How could one determine whether the guy is actually telling the truth or just trying another way to get to more rupees?

  13. Another denomination same story?

  14. I was about to say about 500 rs video. Mridula shared it few minutes before me. Too good writing. I remember incidence took place with me at Ambala. A cycle rickshaw driver drove for 3 Km and demanded just 5 Rs as fare. Fare was too low, I gave him 20 and save me from humiliation. It feels we are somehow cause for the poor standard of living of half of the Indians.

  15. Thanks Paresh, Mridula and Bhavya for your comments.

    @Paresh:You are right, in India we can find the extreme opposites in every field. Some auto-walas try to cheat and some are very honest.

    @Mridula:Thanks for the video… nice one. Yes, the value of money is different for different people.

    @Bhavya:There are some honest people in today’s world… the number is decreasing day by day though.

  16. This was so touching.

  17. After reading your story I can re-assure my self that still there are good people in this world. Heart Touching Story.

  18. I would grin (to convey I am wise to his game but indulging him) and pay up (as otherwise my conscience would keep pricking me afterwards for being mean). What really bothers me is the fact that they don’t use their meters. Bargaining is very stressful for everyone.

  19. Very nicely narrated…Liked a lot..Even today money is the utmost important to everyone,it’s a matter how you earn them,I respect the rickshaw puller for his hard work and faith in God..

  20. The meaning of the denomination is different for different people. More than that, what really matters to me is the value of the money. That has to be respected. Good life time experience though.

  21. Nice post… aajkal two rupees mein tiny pack Parle-G milta hai (nowadays Parle-G bikiz is available for two rupees) 🙂

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