Auto-vaale Uncle

I still remember going to school on an auto-rickshaw, the rickety vehicle also known as a three-wheeler. With seating meant for 3-5 people, it would actually be filled with 12-15 kids, all barely awake up at 6 am in the morning.

During the rainy season, we would cheer as the auto-rickshaw made its way through deep trenches of water on the road, splashing muddy water on to one of us. Mondays were especially hard during the monsoons, since we wore the white ‘PT’ dress. Rain splashes were no badge of honour in the school assembly.

I have so many memories associated with my auto-rickshaw. The many dawns I’ve seen while sitting on the ‘side’. The smell of flowers early in the morning. The cool breeze as we approached the outskirts of the city. The friends, the fights, the innocence…

Yet, this blog post is not about these memories. It is about our auto-vaale-uncle ji (driver of the auto-rickshaw). I was about to go off to sleep today, when a thought about him passed through the memory lanes. The fat, friendly gentleman who would ring our bell at 6 am in the morning without fail. Who would pick up our bags, help us settle in to the rickshaw, resolve our fights, ensure that we sat safely. He was not very educated, but he helped educate tens of kids. At a salary of about 2 thousand rupees per month (~40 dollars), 10-15 years ago.

I have never thought of this man all these years, and yet this sudden memory fills me with emotions. Feelings of gratitude towards a man whose name I do not remember, but without whom I would have not made it safely to school, or resolved the countless fights with other kids, or enjoyed the morning breeze. Somewhere deep inside my heart, is a feeling of guilt. I am guilty of having lost contact with him through all these years, resigning these memories to the unimportant/trivial in life…

Here’s hoping that I get to meet him the next time I visit Amritsar.

Here’s hoping that we can all pause to remember the individuals in our lives who have helped shape who we are, and who must not be forgotten as we sail through the seas of life.

The Joy in Mystery

The world around is beautiful, and mysterious.

Simple things like the snowflakes, the moving clouds, twinkling stars, diffused sunset colours and a baby’s smile arouse a feeling of awe and wonder. I enjoy being a witness to such special moments. Sometimes they bring in poetry, sometimes they inspire curiousity. Science is a tool for the latter, where models compete for description of things that are sometimes very subtle. Complex formulae sometimes obscure reality, especially for someone like me who cannot absorb without an image (and colours). However, intense (or rather, free) thought brings in incremental revelations. Moments where you see how the subtle is incorporated in to what looked obscure. Equations speak. Diagrams become animated. There is a great joy in understanding, quite similar to the joy of meditation… or the experience of watching sunrise at the Besant Nagar beach.

While there is a certain regret as to why I did not spend more time with my scientific quest at IITM, I hope these moments will be more frequent now. There is certainly no greater fulfillment than one of complete understanding. And even infinitesimally small increments feel wonderful.

The stars are infinities away,
but each step towards them is a sparkle of joy…