It must not have been more than 10 in the morning , ghats at Varanasi were simmering under the blazing summer sun. While walking along the ghats you don’t find any shade so we were in a hurry to reach the small tea shop near the Kshemeshwar mandir at the ghat. From our last visit we remembered that this chaiwalah erects canopy by stretching bed sheets that provide adequate shade. Sitting under the shade sipping the hot tea,  enjoying the activities on the ghats and communicating to the quietly rippling Ganges had been an enriching experience. The memory of the last visit as if propelled us towards the shop. But Alas ! reaching there we found that the chaiwallah was wrapping his canopy and was ready to leave . His earthen oven was standing silent and cool. I conveyed my disappointment to him .
He smiled and said , ‘Madam, you go to the lane upstairs. You will get tea there and it’s cool too there.
As I was feeling a bit tired due to scorching heat, I decided to take rest behind the wall of the temple. It was shady there and the cool breeze flowing from Ganges  across the open gates of temple was very soothing.
As we were talking to the chaiwallah, an old man ascending the steps after taking bath in the Ganges stopped listening to our communication and then he too sat on the platform of temple.
While Sunder roamed around clicking the shots I struck a conversation with that old gentleman.
He was Gopal ji. a rickshaw puller. When he was about fourteen years old due to some property dispute some relative threw acid on the hands of his father . His hands were damaged and Gopalji had to wear the mantle of the bread winner of the family. He started pulling rickshaw at that tender age and is still continuing with that. Presently he must have been in his mid sixties. Got married his younger sister and brother. The younger brother too left for the heavenly abode some four years back.  Gopalji is living with brother’s family but has to eke out a living too.
During the course of conversation I asked him ,” You have lived a hard life. just fulfilling your duties, responsibilities. Did you never feel like having a family of your own, having some one your very own?” A smile spread across slowly on his face. Something for a fraction of second as if glowed in those placid eyes.
He told,” Could not spare much time for myself. Got the younger brother married. Had the responsibility of ailing father and mother. Time just slipped out of my hand.”‘
I again asked him,”Did you not feel like complaining to God that He chalked out such hard and drab existence for you.”
And pat came the reply seeped in Hindu philosophy. “Why complaining to God? It’s our own doing. must have neglected my duties and lived my life frivolously in the last birth. Only I have to reap what I sowed. After a brief silence he continued,” and as far as having some one of my own is concerned, I don’t deny that during youth I felt the pangs of desire some times but now ….on the ghats of Ganga Maiya often I meet people with whom I bond well till we are together and then we part ways. Life should be lived like that phase by phase. Clinging to it gives pain. Just go on moving like our Maiya here.”
Inculcating deep philosophy and living the same one need not be a man of letters, academician or a sear. An illiterate rickshaw puller can some times do more justice to these deep lessons. Or was it the Beneras impact.
After a heart felt enriching conversation, we invited Gopalji to have a cup of tea with us in the shop upstairs in the lane. After that we parted ways but the meeting will always be engraved in my memory.

 

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pics courtesy Sunder Iyer

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