For a while now, I have been taking photographs from the inside of a rickshaw and exploring the nuances of the rickety travel across city streets.
This is just one of the views, for a wider exploration see the entire set. Beyond the visual, one-way conversations, there are those that involve people.
It all started with the rickshaw-driver asking me if the day was still a holiday, considering the low evening peak traffic. I said, I’d expect that people would be back at work; enough time to nurse their hangovers (alcoholic and otherwise), and added, it’s a good thing that the traffic is sparse; I’ll reach home early. No, he said, it’s a bad thing, he’d struggle to get fares.
One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.
Smaller bits of conversation ensued regarding driving sense, road quality, politics and such, and I was about to give up the conversation as the usual rickshaw banter. He was talking of being a part-time rickshaw driver. Politeness as well as curiosity made me ask him, what his day job was. He laughed, and said that I’d laugh too, if he told me. Since I was on the edge of walking away from the conversation, I said, I’d respect it if he didn’t want to tell. I could now get back to checking my mail.
“Have you heard of IPTA?”
“What?” It sounded like ITTA when he first said it and all the honking and acceleration by trucks on the flyover was not helping.
“IPTA – Indian People’s Theatre Association,” he elaborated.
“Of course, I know IPTA.”
He seemed surprised that I knew IPTA. “My day job is with IPTA.”
“What do you do there?” The default profession would be an actor, but I wasn’t going to stereotype.
“I am an actor and a writer,” he said, and went on to explain that he was an assistant to a writer, and picked up roles when he could. A brief history of IPTA was narrated and the bad influence of money on art was investigated in some detail.
“You could join mainstream and make enough money, films, television, enough avenues out there,” I said, in some part, defending the 100-crore club.
“I am not in it to make money, I want to stay true to my calling,” came the incorruptible reply. “I make enough money for me to sustain and watch movies.”
A Wednesday (2008) was cited as an example of good film-making. Titanic, and Inception got special mention. I asked, if he had seen In Time (2011). Yes, he said. Star Movies. Nuances of conceptual art were discussed. People’s over-reliance on mindless entertainment was lamented. Mumbai’s ability to make billionaires of beggars was lauded in spite of its heartlessness and bad food; unlike Kolkata, where he was from. Vincent Van Gogh featured as an artist who died without experiencing appreciation while he was alive. The role of the audience and the performer was surgically explored – the inter-dependency was confirmed.
“Two hundred rupees,” he said, as I reached home. We both felt that the traffic should have been worse and the conversation longer, but some conversations are beautiful when they are short, unplanned and have an ending.
Rush-hour traffic is a good conversation-enabler.