Monday, August 08, 2011

Portrait of a Mumbai courier boy

- By Deepa Krishnan

I met this courier boy outside our apartment complex a couple of Sundays ago. He was sensibly dressed for the rainy season - shorts instead of long trousers, water-proof bag, documents covered in plastic. It was 9:00 a.m. and his day was just beginning.

I said to him, "I just bought a new camera, I'm learning to use it. Can I click your photo?" He nodded and said ok, and he posed for me on his bike. He had an infectious, almost cheeky smile. In fact, he came across as a very confident kid.

Nine am, quiet Sunday morning in Sion

He was wearing a T-shirt that said 'Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere'. It brought a grin to my face.

Confident look and cheeky T-shirt.

I showed him the photo in the camera viewer, and his smile widened. Since I'd just bought the camera, he asked me "What does this camera cost?".

I spread five fingers of my hand and said "Fifty thousand". He made an expressive "Oh boy" gesture, half grimace, half-grin, and I suddenly felt the sharp divide between our lives. I knew he thought I was super-rich. I suppose I'd react similarly if I went to that crazy Ambani house on Altamount Road.

I wanted to say something to the boy. Should I say "I didn't start out rich. I've worked damn hard for this"? That seemed too much like a guilt-assuaging trip :) Or should I say "If you study and work hard you can get there too"? That seemed like too much of a lecture to give to a stranger. But everything else seemed inadequate. So in the end I smiled and said "Yes, it's really expensive, no? I got free vouchers at the Croma store, that's how I bought it". The explanation eased things a bit...anyway, he said bye and zoomed off on his delivery round.

I thought to myself, just another day in Bombay, where multiple worlds collide. The differences are there, staring us in the face. We can't wish it away; all we can do is handle it as gently as possible.


Aadil said...

Hey, give me some of those free Croma store vouchers too!!! ;-)

Divya Shankar said...

Nice and sensitive post

Georg Jahnsen said...

congrats! with amazingly few words you manage to describe this something that a lot of people would not even want to talk about. thanks and greetings from Mozambique.

Akshay said...

Sensitive post Akka!! I love the cheeky quote on his t-shirt. It's people like these who define our lives and I'm glad you paid a tribute to the unsung heroes in our lives.

Richa Kashyap Thakur said...

sensitive it is..
sometimes, only thing we can do is to move on...

Sushrut said...

You can change it to "duffel" bag since it is actually a duffel bag.Nice post by the way.