The rain was coming down and pounding so hard on the windshield I couldn't see a thing. The wind was blowing so violently the windshield wipers were hardly touching the glass.
As I drove on, the rain refused to halt. Unwillingly, I had to slow down. I just couldn't effort to let the wheels roll at the speed of my chain of thoughts. Not when my thoughts were geared by the pent-up emotions of a hard and disheartening day. Passing the corner of the street I saw 'Babaji' sitting with his best mate ' his rickshaw.
'Babaji, why're you sitting out in this cold night?' I called, rolling down the glass window.
It wasn't the first time that someone had asked him this question. Everyone always did this minute and they forgot the very next. Drove off in their cars as usual. What difference did it make anyway? There were plenty of Babajis on every nook and corner of town.
'Let me be child. Go on your way. I'll be fine. This night will pass, just like all others. It's been a whole day waiting for a ride.'
I wanted to help him somehow. I got off the car and walked towards Babaji sitting awkwardly in the rickshaw. The rain was still pouring though not as hard.
'No don't think of doing any favors to me child. I don't take that from people. Not from those who come in big cars and stop by to add fuel to the fire anyway'
How could I explain to him I wasn't like the others? How I had longed to be free from my own chains of the so-called 'Freedom?' how I longed to ride on the clouds? A ride'
'Babaji, can I have a ride on your rickshaw?'
'Why?' you do know that it doesn't run at 80 km/h.
Neither does it have windows and shields to shelter you from this cold and ruthless night. Nor is it that comfortable'
I was already in the rickshaw. *Sigh* Where do you wish to go? He asked.
'Take me home Babaji.. To your home'
My home.. What can I tell her? It's no two stories. It hardly has a roof'
When the rickshaw stopped outside a slum I followed Babaji inside. Four expectant faces and eight anticipating yet empty eyes looked straight at me.. As if piercing through my very soul. I asked the youngest 'What's your name?' He took my hand and led me outside and back to the rickshaw. It seemed like a long endless moment as both *Chandan and myself stared at the rain, almost fading; yet falling in a few drops from the sky. On the other side of the road, I could see a tea stall. When I picked up Chandan and sent him back into the house with 5 packs of hot pakodees and tea, it was after a long time that I felt truly happy.. Truly free.
I had a lazy stroll all the way back home that day, indifferent to stares from passersby, as I thought of Babaji and his children and promised myself to lend a hand to another Babaji and another Chandan tomorrow.
The rains had finally made me realize the way to my freedom.
* Chandan ' Name of a boy