[This post contains more fact than fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely intentional.]
He pushed his rickshaw into the shadows off the street light till his receding back was no more in view.
He told the story of his immoral wife. She stole his father’s money and swindled many others in their neighbourhood and ran off. She left him a pauper with two daughters to marry off. He did not curse her ever. He forgave her atrocities eons ago. She was but a mere thought, possibly a memory that he no longer cared for? He can only think of how he would make ends meet. His daughters were his immediate concern.
That’s why the Nepali girl found refuge in his rickshaw at midnight. She looked as scared as a kitten and his heart went out for her. He told her he had to go home but she begged him to drop her. She said a man from the club was following her and asking her to get into his car. The rich man from the club followed his rickshaw till her house. The auto rickshaw driver screamed out to him, go away or I’ll call the police. He told the Nepali as she handed him two hundred rupees, nakoji, insaniyath ke naam se, and drove away to the man from whom he rents his rickshaw for the evenings.
A few years ago, he had picked a young widow from the road. She was drunk, furious and was screaming at the two men she was with. She scrambled into his rickshaw and slurred out her address. When he turned around to ask the directions, he saw that she had passed out. He tried waking her up in vain. He considered taking her to his house but feared what his neighbours would say when they saw him bring a skimpily clad memsahib to his house in the dead of the night. In the morning, when she regained consciousness, but nowhere near sobriety, she hurled abuses at his daughters accusing them of kidnapping her. When he dropped her off at her house, she cried and hugged him and they remained friends since.
He was a woman’s man, they all told him. Although his daughters were irked by his generous ways, his heart swells when they say they are proud of him. Sometimes, when he runs out of gas, he pushes his vehicle to the sister’s house that is closer to the city than his own. His mind wonders as he lies on the hard bed outside their house. This is where he first met the woman who made his life this. He tells himself to sleep that he does not hate her.
Whether he still longs for that doe-eyed girl…