The wife needed to go to the tailor and was one driver short. This was one of those occasions an alpha male finds himself poorly fitted to oblige. However, when one is the guarantor of the other’s debts, one has but little choice. Not for this occasion the male choice of resting from the rigors of city life in one of the clubrooms or the (environmentally friendly) dimly lit lounge bars where one can be with the kind of company where discretion is the sole chaperone. The ones quite favored by business owners when cooking the books with their auditors in a public-private venture.
Anyway, I drove her to the depths of Wellington, Central Kolkata, to which hellhole this Muslim tailor had shifted. Incidentally, all half-decent tailors in Kolkata are Muslims, and I dare say the same applies to specialists in gold filigree, embroidery, etc. in other metros. Wonderful word that: ‘etcetera’: comes in very handy when you want to escape the imminent public visualisation of the bottom of your knowledge.
After reaching somewhere near the destination, I showed immeasurable common sense in parking my car, and engaging a hand-pulled rickshaw to the ultimate spot and back. Now those of you who live in places with flat roads may get shocked. “Why couldn’t you walk or take a cab? How could you ride on a hand-pulled rickshaw, a living symbol of the depths of mankind’s cruelty and oppression?”
To which I nod my head, South Indian-like (a Zenthil), and say, “Quite, quiet!”
A polite way of putting duct tape on protesteth os oris.
When you have delicate female folk who can’t walk except on named streets like Bond Street, Fifth Avenue or Champs D’Lysée, you have a big problem in life. You need to deal with violent retching, the covering of face with nearest available clothing (one important reason for women to use a dupatta or stole), and the “Omigod, it is so dirty!” (repeated till you begin to retch), as if you were personally responsible for the recent decline in civic standards.
So you cop it, and do good to the rickshaw-pulling industry. You refuse to get up, but concede to public demand, and take pictures.





At the tailor shop, Her Majesty got a calendar as a token gift. Women, some men believe, are inherently brimming with the frothy cappuccino of human goodwill and bhadrata (‘gentility’ is a close translation, perhaps). When we got off back at the car, she (spontaneously) offered the calendar to the rickshaw-puller.
Didi, I live on the pavement. Where will I hang this calendar?”, he asked with a smile.
The lady went red in the ears, and was muttering remorsefully to herself. Or to me, but I wasn’t listening. I was thinking about how I (ever the consumer in the open market) reduced the rickshaw puller’s initial demand of the fare by ten rupees, to which the clever rascal immediately consented.
I went there the next day, and yes, he was there all right. I gave him his ten rupees back. He smiled again.
Sometimes, being kind, being a sucker and being charitable are entirely different things. What do you say?

22 responses to “A HOME TRUTH

  1. I have nothing to say and I say it often.

    And I don’t say that even when I don’t need to. If that makes any sense.

  2. Her Majesty looks lovely!

    Who said something about beholders not wearing glasses and looking beautiful themselves or something? Some guy called Keats??

  3. where is the junk? And maybe he could have put the calender on his vehicle and charge more for value added service..

    He probably realised that the calendar was not water proof, and wasn’t worth the effort.

  4. A couple of things come to my mind:
    1. Old habits die hard – the call of the ‘dress’ often dilutes the obstacles of filth, squalor and bumpy rides – such is the woman made!
    2. Her highness looks content with her initiating you into the trudge down the backlanes.
    3. Kindness almost always comes with being a sucker , and Charity often helps to offset our sense of ‘sin’ .
    By the way I managed to import my blog to wordpress although it isnt the easiest experience dealing with WP…..may just go back to blogger.

    Just wait for a while to get the feel of WP. Don’t go back to the ‘Dark side’, as Mac users tell Windows people!

  5. Hand pulled rickshaws were banned in Kolkata, at least this is what was reported in the newspapers a few months ago. Check this link- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4152316.stm
    Not using the rickshaws will not help as long as an alternate livelihood is provided for the pullers. Hand pulled rickshaws may sound cruel but sleeping empty stomach would be much worse.

    Of course it was banned. The proof is in the fact that rickshaws are still thriving in Kolkata.

  6. Your wife is very pretty! Thats the first time I m seeing her pic here.
    Muslims are famous for the fine work and tailoring.
    Its a relatively clean street!!

    Clean street?! LOL! Where do YOU live??

  7. Thou speakest a veritable truth in thy last sentence. But Cal is really fiscally modest when compared to Bombay. Even a tenner has the power to make a difference. Not so in Bombay, I think. To take a typical example, Nita Ambani, when her husband gave her a Boeing 747 for her birthday reportedly bitched about it to her friends saying that the cheapskate was supposed to give her a Airbus 380. Now, if Nita was Calcuttan, she would have been happy with a 737. That’s the difference.

    (PJ Alert!)
    Mukesh probably told her, “Dow doth protesteth 3 much!”

  8. Say hi to your majesty from me. A smart lady there!
    And your pictures sort of livened up my memories of Kolkata…are you settled here by the way, considering you are from Chennai?
    And as to your question:

    Sometimes, being kind, being a sucker and being charitable are entirely different things. What do you say?

    I would add that it depends who it is you are being kind, or charitable to. Different things to different people.

    You are right, kindness, suckerhood and charity are contextual and consensual, so one should take full responsibility for these actions.
    BTW, I am not from Chennai, though I am Tamil. On top of that, what prettiness you see is probably mine reflecting off my camera lens into her face (I hope she is not reading this!)…

  9. Pics are good. Have you taken them with your iphone ?

    Yes. Thanks.

  10. Don’t know about tailoring, but the best Biryani is without doubt, without exception made in hovels in obscure Muslim localities.

    The coolest tailors & embroiderers are invariably the penultimate shack in the squalid lane where you park your two-wheeler at least half a km away. Don’t even dream of going there in a car. The seedier the place, more exquisite the work.

    The missus is indeed lovely 🙂

    I’ve always wondered what a ride in one of those hand-pulled rickshaws will be like. I wonder if saying it out loud makes me a misanthrope :O


    In Dhaka, there is a place called Fakruddin (http://www.fakruddin.com). They are official biryani suppliers to the Queen of England, and have outlets in London and Singapore. You can’t believe how incredibly dirty the Dhaka restaurant is, though the biryani is freakin’ mean!

  11. r,

    I’m trying hard to look for a sign in Bangla Lipi in one of the pictures. One that comes closest is the green & white board in the last pic, perpendicular to the train.

    Please tell me signs in the vernacular are not passé?

    No, nothing gets to be passé in Kolkata, except the city itself.

  12. Oh, And I thought you were going to say that what prettiness you see is due to the fact that you were taking the picture and she was smiling at you. With love. But let me add, I see that you’ve taken the picture with love too, a photographer always hows his love by the way he clicks!

    I must have made a wisecrack for her to smile like that!

  13. Her Majesty is beautiful!
    I loved the Muslim biryani (and mutton stew) shops in UP. Don’t know about Cal.

    I wish to visit Lucknow and Hyderabad just to eat the biryani and the meats!

  14. What? You gave up the freedom of choice you had in negotiating, and the rickshaw-puller had in accepting the bargain? After all, it is not as if the State has stipulated anything in this transaction.

    Doc, I daresay, you are turning a pinko, even possibly a socialist in your old age. All those years living in Bengal are taking their toll.. 😉

    The actions were all voluntary, after all, without the State stipulations as to the ‘right’ fare. Hell, we were indulging in an illegal activity, actually, as the ricks are banned! I am very skeptical about the times when I exhibit some kindness. Most of me shouts ‘SUCKER!’ while a part of me says,
    “Even if you get conned this time, do it anyways!”
    That said, no socialism for me, thank you!

  15. Talking about rikshaws being opressive and all that, they are the latest fad in Newyork.

    They call them bicycle cabs here!

  16. Yep Sometimes, being kind, being a sucker and being charitable are entirely different things.

    When I go to my village guys ask for 8 Rs. because that’s the set rule from ages, and I think boys a Auto rikshaws from Chennai can really help here.

    Anyways we are a socialist economy right?

  17. Oh u dont remember where I live!!

    U have commented on the post too!

    Having seen other parts of Kolkata along with Kanpur, Bhopal, Nagpur I will say the street is relatively clean.

  18. I thought things were pretty clean too!! and not very crowded? Tillottoma Kolkata mairi! Glad you got over this cruel and unusual crap and took the rickshaw — labor of any sort is dignified and ought not be looked down upon. And what did the idiot communists expect anyway — rickshaw pullers would be get jobs as IT consultants (I assume IT consultants get paid a lot — when they have jobs!)?
    The queen of England has an official biryani supplier? That is funny!

  19. Kolkata yaad aa gaya doc! I was there till my HS, or Uchho Madhyomik as it is called in Bengali 🙂 That was 17 yrs ago … your post and writing style is khoob bhalo! i am your nothoon fan.

  20. Women, some men believe, are inherently brimming with the frothy cappuccino of human goodwill and bhadrata (’gentility’ is a close translation, perhaps) 😀 😀 😀

    nice catch…!

  21. We love to give charity but we also insist on not over paying for the service that we get. We don’t like to give what is not deserved. There is a thin line between the two, that is the median on the road! Mrs. Rambodoc looks pretty 🙂

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