There were two rickshaw-walas vying for our business when we wanted to go to Sankat-Mochan temple in Benaras. I agreed to go with the one who was about 20, seemed like a regular young rickshaw-wala, but I found something interesting about this fellow in his eyes. I was not proved wrong.
He wanted Rs 50, we said Rs 30. We settled for 40.
Here are the highlights of the conversation that ensued while he rode the rickshaw:
“aap kahan se aaye hain”
“bijness ya kaam karte hain?”
“naukri karte hain”
“humara bhi kuch wahin kaam lagwa do”
I just chuckled
“main try kar raha hoon engineering padhne kee. achchi naukri lag jaayegi tab”
“achcha?” I asked a little interested
“haan, delhi mein Guru Gobind Singh Indraprashta University mein engineering ke liye apply kara hai. achchi hai woh university”
“haan, achchi hai”, I agreed.
“haan, kal hee maine JEE bhi diya”
“JEE matlab, IIT ka?”
“haan, Joint Entrance Examination” he pronounced it perfectly just to make it clear to me what JEE stood for. “mushkil hota hai exam”
“haan, 2 saal toh log padhte hee hain uske liye, asaan nahin hai” I carried on the conversation
“Delhi mein Akaash coaching institute hain na?”
“aapne kya padhai kari?”
“main engineer hoon, aur phir mba bhi kiya”
“kahan se engineer?”
“IIT delhi se”
He swung back, surprised, a little delighted, and smiled. “Ok, aapke liye Rs 30”
Swati and I laughed
Swati asked “padhai kab karte they IIT ke liye”
“bas, rickshaw chalaane ke baad raat mein”. Then he added “kismein engineering kari aapne?”
“toh aapki chemistry toh badi strong hogi”
“nahin, aisa nahin hai”
He continued “yeh bataiye….jab Mendeleev ne Periodic Table banaya tha tab kitne elements they usmein?”
Now it was my turn to get surprised. He was quizzing me. I said “shayad 70-80”
“no, 63” he said sharply. “kaunse element kee electronegativity highest hai?”
Swati was laughing, and I didnt try too hard and said “pata nahin”
“Flourine”, he said confidently. Without a break he asked,”kaunse element kee electron affinity highest hoti hai?”
Now I was laughing too and said “nahin pata”
“Chlorine. toh aapka kaunsa subject strong tha?” clearly having proven that my chemistry wasnt a strong point
“Physics”, I said
“achha, Newton’s second law of motion kya hai”
I knew this one I thought, “F=ma” I said
“Physics is not about formula, it is understanding concept!” he reprimanded me in near perfect english. “Tell me in statement”
I was shocked. Swati continued to laugh.
I said “ok, Newtons second law, er….was….”
” ‘was’ nahin, ‘is’!Second law abhi bhi hai!” he snapped at my use of ‘was’
Surely, my physics wasnt impressing him either. “yaad nahin, I said”
“Force on an object is directly proportional to the mass of the object and the acceleration of the object”, he said it in near perfect english. “aapne mtech nahin kiya?”
“nahin, mba kiya”
“mba waale toh sirf paisa kamana chahte hain, kaam nahin karte”
“nahin, aisa nahin hai, paisa kamaane ke liye kaam karna padta hai”
He said “arrey, rehene do” or some words to that effect. He didnt think too highly of me apparently anymore.
In a minute we reached our destination. We got off and I told him that he must and should definitely study more, and that I think he is sharp as hell. He took only Rs 30, smiled and began to leave. I got my camera out and said “Raju, ek photo leta hoon tumhari”. He waved me off, dismissed the idea and rode off before I could say anything more….leaving me feeling high and dry like a spurned lover.
Damn, what a ride that was! India is changing, and changing fast.