Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Beautiful Mind

[The incident narrated below is a completely true incident from my own life. Although written from memory, I have tried to write the dialogues exactly as I remember them.]

“We’ll tell him to take us inside our lane”, said Ananda in English.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Unless we get down on the main road, he’ll ask for a rupee more. As it is, we are already paying him extra”, I replied, also in English.

“We are paying him extra. That’s why I want him to go inside”, he said.

I and my cousin brother Ananda were returning from my uncle’s house in Chinsurah to our house in Hooghly on the night of 30th June 2002. The above conversation was in English lest the rickshaw puller, the subject of our conversation, understands it. A few hours ago, Brazil had beaten Germany 2:0 in the FIFA World Cup final, and we had gone to enjoy the match with our other cousins. After having our dinner at my uncle’s house, we were now returning home on a cycle-rickshaw.

We were passing through one of the narrowest but busiest roads of the old town. The roads were deserted by now and littered with paper shreds from burst crackers. Brazilian flags were hanging from strings everywhere and some were lying on the ground. A bicycle rider came from the opposite direction, lost his balance, and almost collided with our rickshaw, before stabilizing himself and going away. One of us remarked (in Bengali) how recklessly he rode.

Kichhu uttejok podartho pete porechhe bodhoy”, remarked our rickshaw puller (It means “Some stimulating stuff must have gone into his stomach”).

Now this language struck me as a little too good for a rickshaw puller. Anyway, we started talking with him. All further conversations are in Bengali unless otherwise mentioned.

I: That’s quite possible. Brazil won, you know…

Rickshaw puller (RP): Today there was a big match, isn’t it so Sir?

Ananda: Yes. And Brazil won it.

RP: Brazilians play well, don’t they?

I: Yes.

RP: And who else plays well?

I (eager to show off my negligible knowledge in soccer): Germany, Argentina, England, France, er… (forgot other names)

Ananda:Italy, Holland, Paraguay, Columbia.

RP: And India? Don’t we play well?

I: No!

RP: But we hear so much about Mohunbagan and East Bengal… don’t they go to the World Cup?

Ananda (probably shuddering at the idea): No. Their standards are much much lower than the world standards.

RP: Oh… so most people support Brazil here?

I: Yes, and Argentina too.

RP: Where is Argentina, Sir? Is it in America?

I: Yes, it is.

RP: North America or South America?

I again felt a little odd… did the average rickshaw puller in Hooghly know about the two Americas? Maybe he did, I had never cared to know before. Anyway, I answered it was South America, and we proceeded in silence for some time. Then near our home, RP asks us, “What do you do? Study?”

I said I studied “Engineering” and Ananda said he studied “Science” (saying bigyan in Bengali so that the man understands). Then the rickshaw puller asked whether we believed in God. Even without thinking, we unanimously replied that we did.

And why?” he asked in English.

We were too stunned to speak for a few seconds.

The first thought that came to my mind was that he must have heard and understood all our 'secret' conversation, and had been actually playing with us when he was asking us all that rubbish about soccer and Mohunbagan and America.

Ananda was the first to recover. Though all he could do was to repeat the man’s question to him. Then he replied, “I believe in God because I feel that God has always helped me take the right decisions in life.” (This was said in Bengali again… he had not recovered enough to start in English right then. Further conversations were in Bengali and English mixed. And RP’s English was definitely as good as ours).

RP: I don’t believe in God. I am a science graduate. I had a good job in a big company. My brother cheated me and made me lose that job. Now I pull this rickshaw and teach students of class fifth to tenth at my home. If you go to so-and-so place and ask my name (alas, I don’t remember his name or the place now) or ask for “Master-da’s” house, anybody will show you my house. I’m not as well known as the other famous Master-da (freedom fighter Surjya Sen), but people know me. I have been struggling like this to keep my family alive for some years now. I’m not dishonest or lazy. If there was a God, would this happen to me? And my brother is living in peace. So I don’t believe in God anymore.

By now we had reached inside our lane and were standing in front of our house. And we, one engineering student and one chemistry graduation student, were trying to convince a poor rickshaw puller that there was a God.

Ananda: Scientists do not deny the existence of God. Einstein himself believed in God.

RP: But his General Theory of Relativity and Special Theory of Relativity do not account for God, do they? Nor does his explanation of photo electric effect.

I: Have you heard the name Stephen Hawking? In his book he says “God said let there be light, and there were gamma rays. We can’t explain the conditions before the Big Bang in any other way.”

RP: Something can’t be explained right now doesn’t mean it is done by God. Have you heard the name Erich von Daniken?

I (swallowing): Sure I have. (Ananda later told me that he hadn’t and it would have been extremely embarrassing if I hadn’t heard it either)

RP: In his book “Chariots of the Gods” he explains how the so called ‘divine’ occurrences could have been actually alien visits to Earth. So inexplicable doesn’t mean divine, does it?

I: Er… No, it doesn’t.

Ananda (letting go of science and clutching at religion): But Ramakrishna and Vivekananda believed in God, right? They said God exists.

RP: Ramakrishna and Vivekananda said that service of man is the service of God. They were great men. But Vivekananda believed, “God is present in every jiva (creature); there is no other God besides that.”

I (desperate): But… but in Gita Shree Krishna says that… er.. “Yada yada…” (I struggled to finish it)

RP: Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata,
Abhuthyanam adarmasya tadaatmaanam srijamyaham.
Paritranaya saadhunaam vinashaya cha dushkritaam,
Dharmasamstha punatthaya sambhavami yuge yuge.

(In these Sanskrit verses Lord Krishna says “Whenever there is downfall of goodness and growth of evil, I reincarnate myself. To save the good people and to destroy the evil ones, I come again and again”)

Both of us:

RP: Yeah! I've read that. So what? Krishna was a great human being. But Mahabharata is an epic. How does it prove that God exists where we can’t even prove that that epic itself is true? So I don’t believe in God. If there was a God, I wouldn’t suffer so much.

Ananda: Well, OK…if you say so! Anyway, you are honest and hardworking. You teach so many children. So you should continue the good work, without thinking about what you get for it. In the Gita it is written that you should do your work without desire of the result…

RP: Karmanye vadhikarasthe, Ma phaleshu kadachana ... Yes, I follow that, and that is why I’m able to live.

By this time, my grandma came out of the house to our rescue. Seeing her, we bade farewell to the man saying it was a nice discussion and we had enjoyed it. He said that he had felt likewise. We said that if he wanted to continue on the topic, he could come to our house one day and spend some time. He accepted the invitation, but never turned up. I never saw or heard anything about this remarkable rickshaw puller since that day. But this incident got imprinted in my memory so clearly that even after four years I almost remember each dialogue accurately.

And whenever I feel that my job isn't good enough for my qualifications, I try to compare my situation with that of the rickshaw puller. That never fails to make me feel that I'm in heaven.


  1. No wndr u remember the incident so clearly even aftr 4 years. Any sensible prsn wud hav. Afterall that wsnt an everyday incident!!
    And it wsnt tht surprisin that the man had lost faith in God. After facing so much in life who won't?? But he was definitely sm personality that even aftr facin such harsh treatment frm d society he is still contributing 2 d society.

  2. And yeh i once told that our riting styles r different..... coz u that u deal with events while i deal with emotions. But the way u hav ritten the blog is amazing. An event described with emotions embedded all over!! Even the previous post was that way.
    Way to go buddy. Carry On!!

  3. A very nice post rather a very nice incident. You can learn art of living from ravishankar but you will learn what is life? from those who haved faced it at its worst. Like you and me many people are living a very simple, plain life without any speedbreakers or serious clutches. What we feel serous issues are not really that serous if you see at RikshawPullers or such who have faced hardship in their life. Th best way to earn knowledge is to learn from those who have earned that thru experiences. RP is literally living a Karmanyevadhikaraste ma faleshu kadanchamn life or he could have been another victim of failures/stress. In his world he do not find a separate place for GOD. His god is in his customers or work. And as per Hindu upanishads and vedas god does not exist separately it is in everything.

    Another thing sometimes somebody writes his own opinions, sometimes he writes events and triggers thoughts in readers mind about event or opinion. Like my earlier post about Women yur this post fits in second catagory. No issues. Keep writing.

  4. Life sometimes snatches one's hopes, aspirations and all that the person is left with is contempt/fury/grievance. Any person in place of the RP would have lost faith in GOD, and for that matter, ask urself why do u believe in GOD, isn't it because sometimes what u have hoped for has come true? Had it been the other way, u would have had the same views as the RP. Life ain't fair to everyone, but the one who fights it with dignity is the one who adorns its meaning. True, GOD lives in everyone's heart!

    PS: Although its off the topic, but calcutta is one place where people consider work as work, and in the absense of a "suiting their qualification" kinda work, they would pick up something to continue with the meaning of their existence on this earth. :)

  5. @aurindam: Yes, and he must have been studying a lot, otherwise he would never be able to quote Daniken, Vivekananda and Gita all at once...
    Regarding the writing style, thanks. Aage aage dekho hota hai kya! ;-)

    @abhijit: Teaching 'Art of Living' from inside a classroom is easy. Only when you face real life you come to know how to live it. People like us don't even come to know about the struggles of qualified but unlucky people unless our paths cross somewhere, like what happenend with me.
    As Aurindam has pointed out, I am more comfortable writing about events rather than ideas. I hope my narration of events generate ideas in the readers' minds.

    @rohit mahajan: Exactly what Ananda said, that we believe in God only because we have never been disappointed, at least not in a big way, in crucial things.
    Good to know what you feel about Kolkata... Frankly speaking, I had a rather opposite opinion! :-p

  6. having faith in god is something that was definitely not expected from a person like the RP who had suffered so much at the hands of his destiny..but the mere fact that he was still walking with his head up and did not give up reflects his will power and courage to make the best out of his life..
    i myself do not bliv in an idol whom we worship nd offer prayers to..but i do know there is a supreme power which controls everythin..and we r nothin without that..
    excellent post..kudos to u..

  7. Good stuff man... really riveting. My heart goes out to u and ur cousin... what a predicament :-)

  8. @kadambari: That's what RP asked... why do you believe in that supreme power? Think about it yourself... and thanks for your compliments!

    @indianpeppone: Aaah! I have been waiting for this comment. Everybody else is writing about faith in God and such high level stuff... nobody commented about our predicament. :-(

  9. firstly, sorry for reading this post after so long time....It is really amazing that U remember so many facts after such a long time. There are so many people like that person in this world(bad that U dont remember the name) who do things coz they have no choice, but here we are fretting abt things we dont have even after having stomachful everyday...
    I am really happy that by sharing this experience u made all of us think abt how lucky we are in this damn society....

  10. a science grad pulling a rickshaw. It happens only in India

  11. @satyapriya: Yes, I think it does help to see things in perspective when you feel you are unlucky. And I seem to remember those dialogues perfectly, I don't know how.

    @shreemoyee kanungo: Yes, and not only a science grad, you could call him a scholar in the true sense of the term, because his knowledge of Sanskrit verses was no less. In fact, we were sadly incompetent to debate with him.

  12. ashadharon likhechhen. ghatona-ta ekta level-e marmantik botey tobey anyo level-e khub symptomatic.

  13. Hey Dude,

    Just got to read your Beautiful Mind.....huh...have been more or less impacted by your narration....I have seen such very good human beings...surprisingly in Service people like Auto-rickshaw walas and taxi drivers....I know a Auto driver a muslim guy in my town, so good at Bhagavad Gita and so courteous.....have had a similar but not so impacting a conversation, with him too.....Great post...

    my best wishes,


  14. @rajesh: Thanks. Keep visiting and sharing your experiences.

  15. "aami bahu baasanaaya
    praanpane chai,
    banchito kore
    baachaale more"
    -Rabindrantath Tagore

    Roughly translated:
    I have wanted so much from you
    and u have deprived me all along
    thank you for saving me from more desire

  16. @anonymous: Thanks for posting such a beautiful and appropriate Tagore song here. You provided a totally different viewpoint on the issue. Keep visiting.

  17. Onek din aage shunechilaam, abar mone pore gelo...