Tea at a high price16

This time I went to Pondicherry only to see my sister Lily, who is seriously ill in the nursing home. During my trip, I did not eat at home. As a result, my cousins were so sad and upset. They prepared food for me, but I did not take it. I said, “It is very sentimental. My sister is not here. That is why I do not feel like eating at home. When my sister is not here, it is too much for me.”

I went to a particular restaurant once or twice a day to take idli, masala dosa, sambar and tea. One day I went by rickshaw to this restaurant to eat. The rickshaw-wallah left me right outside the restaurant, not even ten metres away. I asked him to wait for me. I saw that many rickshaw drivers were keeping their cycles at that place.

Then I went inside and ordered rose milk, masala dosa and tea. The restaurant gave me very fast service. In three or four minutes they gave me the food and another ten minutes I took to finish my meal. I ate very happily.

When I went back to the rickshaw, the fellow told me his sad story. He had gone out to eat. When he came back, he saw that somebody had taken away the pillow or seat cushion of his rickshaw. People were saying that the place where he had kept the rickshaw was illegal, so the police had come and taken his pillow away.

I looked at the bench inside the rickshaw. Now it was a hard surface and it was so uneven. I said to him, “I will not be able to sit there because the pillow is gone. I am giving you the money for the ride. I will find another rickshaw.”

The rickshaw-wallah said, “No, if you do not go with me to prove that I was waiting for you, the police will not give me my pillow back.”

What was I going to do with this fellow? He was begging me to accompany him to the police station; otherwise, he could not get his seat cushion back.

The police station was out of my way. It was God knows where! We were driving and driving and I was being tortured because of the hard seat. I have such a bad back. Sometimes I tried not to sit; I stayed two or three inches above the wood because it was hurting me. And in three places there were nails! Usually the pillow covers everything. This is how I was ‘enjoying’ my journey.

I decided that since the police had taken the pillow away, whatever the police charged, I would give the money to the driver. We arrived at the police station and asked the police for the pillow. The police scolded and insulted the driver. “As if we have nothing else to do than to bring your pillow here!” Then I spoke to the police chief. He said, “No, we do not this kind of thing.”

Some people had told the driver that the police took it away, but it was not true. Then I was begging the driver, "Please, this time take me to my house."

For another fifteen minutes we drove on and I could not sit properly because it was all wood and nails. The driver did not get his pillow. When we reached my home at long last, I gave the driver fifty rupees instead of thirty. I said to myself, “God knows when he will get his pillow back."

TCE 23. September 1995