Journy through Bangldesh
An Unseen Bond
"Hey, mama! Would you go?”Standing near the Shahid minar, I asked a rickshaw driver. He looked at me and just said,
“Kajla,” I replied, “Kajla 'varsity gate.”
“Ok, come on.”
“How much is the fair?” I asked him to avoid trouble later.
“Tk. 10”, he replied briskly.
“What!” I was totally puzzled at his demand.
“How can the fare be Tk. 10? On what logic?” I exclaimed. Only a week ago I used to go to Kajla for Tk. 5, and never had to bargain as that was the standard fare. Within seven days the fare has doubled. Strange! “Isn't this a ghost's trick?” I whispered to myself. Then I said sharply to the driver, “Oi mama, what trick is this?”
“Mama! Don't get so excited”, the rickshaw puller said calmly. “The price of petrol has increased by Tk. 14 per litre.” He continued, “Kerosene per litre has become Tk. 33. Just a week ago the garage owner took Tk. 20 as non-refundable deposit money, now he is charging me Tk. 35. Prices of essential goods are going beyond our means day by day. Everything ......!!”
Then I realized the fact. It was not a ghost's trick. Actually, it's the result of the recent budget which has hit heavily at the backbone of our domestic economy.
“Ok, mama, it's Tk. 10. I accept your demand, let's go.”
As I boarded the rickshaw, the driver started to paddle. We were passing through the road beside the City-Protection-Dam towards Kajla. It was about 5 p.m. A sweet breeze was blowing in from the Padma, once a mighty river. I looked at the driver paddling the ricckshaw steadily, and asked him, “Mama, where do you come from?”
“Kurigram”, he replied.
“Kurigram! From the 'monga' (famine) affected area! You have come a long way from home, mama.”
“Yes, mama. What can one do? One has to eat to live, you know.” I remained quiet for a while and then said, “Mama, stomach is the greatest enemy of the poor. Look at me! Despite the enormous price hike of the essentials, my family has been sending me Tk. 1000 monthly for maintaining the expenses of my study since my first year in the university. Now I'm in the second year but they still send me the same Tk. 1000. Now-a-days, is it possible to meet all the expenses with this little amount of money?” I wanted to know from him.
The rickshaw driver nodded his head wisely and said, “Nay! It's not possible.”
“Try to understand then why I was bargaining with you.”
The driver stopped the vehicle as we had already reached Kajla. I gave him a Tk. 10 note from my wallet and started to go.
“Mama!” the rickshaw driver called me'
“Please take it”, saying this, he gave me back three one taka coins.
“Why? Isn't ten taka your fare?” I asked surprised.
“Yah. But now I would compromise with you. I shouldn't be thinking of myself only. You are also a sufferer. So, please take it”. Then he said, “Mama, after finishing your studies, when you will have a job, then you pay me the full fare. Not today.”
I felt a lump in my throat. As I accepted the coins, I said, almost in a whisper, “Thanks. Pray for me, mama”, and then entered the evergreen campus of my university.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006