Something I dug up for Mona. Written all the way back in the winter of 2005. Who'd have thought rickshaws could have place in pleasant memories. :)
"Four Women and a Rickshaw."
Dementia is a small word. When it comes to doing things that are beyond boundaries, dementia is merely a psychotic disorder.
What's the practical manifestation of normality combined with abnormality (or deviating from social norms, if you may), is what we do at college/university everyday.
I have realized, of late, my love for rickshaws has deepened; maybe it is because fate has drawn me to them quite more than I would like (at nine in the morning when your car doesn't start, and you're already late for your class, the best possible solution is a noisy vehicle, you wait desperately for an empty one to come by. When it doesn't your love to see that blessed vehicle increases dramatically, I assure you)... On other instances, for reasons best known to myself, information is better suited in a classified folder.
However here, in this unclassified domain of viewers, I take this opportunity of unoccupied moments and a single-eared headphone playing a Pakistani band trying to rock it, I write about the normal dementia as experienced by us each day.
"Tomorrow, Ramzan starts," was the key clause of the day. Every activity, thought or rescheduling of classes and brainstorms revolved around it. The most affected domain, as was expected, was food. Mona was lamenting how we'd eaten biryani yesterday thinking that yesterday, in fact, had been the last day of Shaba'an. And that was the 'last biryani'.
Now today, we were sure that we would NOW be having our LAST BIRYANI. However, no one felt like walking in the scorching heat to the cafe and find out that they'd run out of it.
With these grave issues at hand, Mona, as always, went off on a tangent and came up with one of her most brilliant ideas: "Let's take a rickshaw, go to Defence Market and eat Daal Chaval from a Dhaba."
After it was refuted that it was not a dhaba at all, but a full fledge hotel, and that it offered much more than just Dal Chaval or dhaba food, my eyes brightened and I yelled for Nihari immediately. Sara came around to the idea too at the further mention of Biryani and Nihari and we had our plans made. As we walked out of our classroom, Neelum asked us to inform them if we fit into the rickshaw. As if we didn't have enough of that to worry about, I retorted,
"All right.. if we do.. we'll give you a missed call."
Now to find a rickshaw.
Just outside the hospital, within which our university is located, there is a swarming of rickshaws like motored, noisy flies. We walked out wondering how we'd fit into it. No one in the group was diminutive enough to occupy space that wasn't human enough.
Spotting the first rickshaw outside the gates, we pounced on the grungy-looking Pathan chewing on a matchstick. His eyes never left the four of us and as we drew near to his chariot, we kept muttering, "Who's going to haggle?"
Meeting up to the challenge, as I was quite used to haggling with Rickshaw wallahs, and owing to the haggard way in which I was dressed (pathetic pajamas, sorry-looking shirt and a white old-woman dopatta), I asked him, "Bhai, all we need to go is Defence Market .. how much?"
He spoke in fast Urdu mixed with Pashto and expected us to understand. That was when I felt like a foreigner.
"What? What? What is he saying?" poked Mona.
I glanced at Sara, our Pathan friend, but I told myself that she was too beautiful to converse with a rickshaw wallah, who has the propensity to stand in front of our university. I rose to the challenge again - alone.
"We're not paying anything more than 35 rupees."
He spoke even faster now. Because we were in the groove and talking money, his adrenaline jumped levels and his translucent blue eyes sparkled in his matted browned face.
"Baji.... 35 ... 20 ... 4 banday .... khud socho..."
... was all I could make out of it.
I finally understood that he was saying 20 rupees for one way and 20 rupees for the other. I felt like agreeing, but later realized that Mona had already shaken her head into an emphatic NO and now was motioning towards another rickshaw wallah.
Pathan Undecipherable panicked. He then spoke the words that were decipherable, workable, and understandable. "Ajao beth jao."
Here rose another great obstacle. How to fit into this small a seat. I stared at the shiny red cloth that I was to sit on. Mona was still trying to find a foot ledge. I wanted to tell her that the foot ledge was missing in this particular rickshaw but I had more pressing concerns of Sara and our other friend waiting behind me.
Moving in unglamorously into the small compartment, I sat down apprehensively waiting for others to fit in. Once the first two were inside, the seat was full. All three of us stared at Sara standing outside blankly. Then we burst into giggles.
I moved forward until my knees were pressed hard and solidly into the cold metal that ended the compartment. Mona yelled, "I'm gonna fall out, I'm gonna fall out!" and Nyma insisted on saying, "Move, move, move," until I finally quietened her with, "I CAN'T!" .... in the meantime Sara made her way into the little rickshaw.
The rickshaw wallah was sure having fun. I could tell because he didn't need any signal for us to tell him that we were safely inside the rickshaw. The moment Sara entered the rickshaw, the puht-puht began and as if in a roller coaster in Disneyland, our ride swiveled around the round about and I clung on the round steel bars for dear laughs and dearer life. I cannot put the words I felt when I couldn't stop myself from laughing at the utter ridiculousness of the situation.
Usually you can see the expression on the rickshaw wallah's face in the multifarious rearview mirrors they have all around... this time around, I was too embarrassed to even look at him. Yet that embarrassment didn't stop me from laughing. We didn't stop all the way back to university. We kept laughing while we were in the rickshaw... even though Sara told us not to because, "When we laugh we expand and we need SPACE to EXPAND.. don't make me laugh please!"... but Mona wouldn't quit... she said, "Chalo ab let's message our classmates... that we've fit..." We laughed even when we were at the restaurant where all the male population had gathered to eat lunch and we had to stand behind the counter hidden from everyone - that was when our laughter slightly subsided into chortles and chuckles. We laughed when the poor chap at the counter on the better restaurant asked for 140 rupees and we gave him all ten rupee notes. Five minutes later when we realized that we had to pay the rickshaw wallah too, we went back to him and asked him for the change back and paid him the 100 rupee note. Our laughter didn't help the counter wallah's irritation.
Once after we'd taken the food, we were faced with the dilemma of squeezing ourselves back into the rickshaw. Oddly, here is the unexplained phenomena. We fitted fine this time .. Hmm.
All the way back, amidst our chortles (we realized that laughter was just not possible), we tried three to four different theories on how to fit four women into one rickshaw and plus food on the way back.
Over our Chicken Garlic Rolls and Mona's Biryani, we shared our theories with the rest of the class for their own future benefits.
Sara's regret was that she was under confident about speaking Pashto, else she'd have conversed with the rickshaw wallah herself! Well. Almost.