Thursday, May 18, 2017

Kolkata's Rickshaw-puller, Yet Again~

Aslam, the septuagenarian
   a rickshaw puller in Kolkata,
Keeps pulling a legacy
Within the boundaries
    of human existence.
His chiming bell attracts attention
of people, worldwide-
-the so called ‘custodians’
            of the human rights,
who have indelible tales of
    inhumanity and cruelty to tell.

Unmindful of all sobriquets bestowed
Aslam runs and runs…
Two squiggly legs keep whirling,
Escalating the tempo 
   of the two wooden wheels behind him.
Boy oh boy, if only I could run once like him!
The devastating speed charms; infuses verve;
       yet sinks my heart.

But then,
It is no dream,
For a father of six hungry children
Who seldom gets one square meal a day,
 Composing, relaxing like the rest of us!
Regardless of neglect, I think,
He is a 'citizen' in the road...
Stealthily slipping, yet preserving
  the susurrus of a British heritage
the hand-pulled rickshaw-
      Kolkata’s colonial treasure
through clinks of time.

Foreign tourists identify Kolkata City with the Victoria Memorial, the Howrah Bridge and these hand-pulled rickshaws. They regard it as a cultural icon of the city, irrespective of the stories of inhumanity and cruelty that social critics and activists have attributed to the city’s unbarred use of man-powered rickshaws...


  1. "The devastating speed charms; infuses verve;
    yet sinks my heart."
    Vast history, poverty, cruelty are invoked here while zooming in on a worker with amazing skills and mouths to feed. A poem that should travel far, Panchali!

  2. There are so many childhood memories like this hidden away in our minds and your beautiful poem Panchali reminded me of simple trademen and door to door sellers in England over seventy years ago.

  3. This poem is a wonder, making us think of how hard he works to support his family, at an age when it must be nearly impossible for him to keep going. Thank you for this write, Panchali, which stretches the borders of our world and helps us see the plight of many, through your lines.

  4. May all the rickshaw pullers be well rewarded for their strenuous efforts!

  5. Well composed. Even in the darkness of hardship, human dignity perseveres.

  6. " yet sinks my heart."
    This line is a leveller for it paradox. Both to Slam, culture and humanity

    Thanks for a deeply stirring write Panchali

    Much love...

  7. An inspiring write..thank heavens there are people like this in the world

  8. 'Stealthily slipping, yet preserving
    the susurrus of a British heritage
    the hand-pulled rickshaw-
    Kolkata’s colonial treasure
    through clinks of time.'

    Heartfelt writing, and wonderful imagery. Sad.

  9. This is a heartfelt piece, Panchali. Thank you for the glimpse to the ordinary people of Kolkata going about their daily lives!

  10. My heart sinks at the memory of this.Shameful that people must live like this when other have so much.Iniquitous injustice.

  11. Thank you, Panchali, for sharing this portrayal of hardship for many of us who take our comfortable lives so for granted. It's a beautifully written tribute.

  12. Even though he's poor, a man who exercises this much every day can't be that unhappy. As a fellow exerciser (every other day or more) the body has a way of keeping you happy when you're in that kind of shape. It's too bad he lives somewhere where he doesn't have better choices (or options) for the rest of his family. Especially in this day and age. I will say I've never been overseas so I have no idea what it's like to grow up in other countries.


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