About the weaver: SHWETA MIGLANI
Shweta, 18, smiles a lot and can karate chop even Bruce-lee, in her head of course! Sarcasm is kind of her middle name. Straight up, she is a book junkie and a book hoarder.
The following is her winning piece of the Octopus With A Quill (O.W.A.Q.) creative writing contest in the Photo Story category. (The featured image of this post was the picture shortlisted for this category)
Today was turning out to be a particularly brutal day for a sixty-four-year-old rickshaw puller.
He had been insulted, harassed and spat on, all in the span of two hours and that are the recollection of just the morning. He had to flip his kurta and dhoti because of the grease that had found its way to him while adjusting the pedal chain back on after it fell apart. And as much as this appearance could have been a fashion statement with the rich, his baggy, disheveled state didn’t exactly help his cause with the customers. Ergo, less money.
It wasn’t that he favored this job. Most in his profession didn’t, and it was just an income source for the poor. But in the end, he was a human and believed in being respected as one. Money didn’t matter to him much, he was alone in this world after all, but what did matter to him were his father’s last words,
“Don’t ever quit, Reilah!” his father had said. So now here he was, not quitting.
Reilah backed his rickshaw into the alley which was his home. To many, it was just an ordinary alley with bags of garbage thrown around, but for Reilah, it was everything. He tied his rickshaw to the electricity pole knowing that one can never be too cautious with one’s possessions. He went to the little area he has cleared a while ago beside the wall, holding in his hands a newspaper.
It was yesterday’s newspaper. The one a man had left behind on a bench, but knew that he wouldn’t miss it. He took off his shoes and carefully put them down on the floor. He unfolded the newspaper and carefully took it from portrait to landscape to read.
The image in itself was striking. Here was a man, who pulled rickshaws for a living, with a newspaper and reading it. It was astounding.
But, he could read. He had just passed his matriculation with flying colors, but soon life threw a curve ball. His father was diagnosed with throat cancer and his mother went mad with all the responsibilities. His father’s savings couldn’t help the piling debt.
Now, words were the only thing constant in his life beside his rickshaw, shoes, a dhoti and two shirts — one on his back and the other stuffed beneath the rickshaw’s passenger seat.
Reilah had always been a keen reader and the newspaper gave him a sense of attachment, a concept which more or less was foreign to him. It didn’t matter that it was yesterday’s newspaper and the stories, while great were mostly tragic. That newspaper was his solace, his way to unwind after a tiresome day at work.
And soon this sixty-four-year-old will fold back the newspaper, put it aside carefully and go to sleep on the floor, only to wake up and jump start for another day of rickshaw pulling.
Editor’s Notes: Shweta has caught the visual elements of the picture intricately and weaved a story around it. As a contest organizer, I expected a unique angle than the one that showed the old guy as some poor guy working hard for the living. However, Shweta made it a point to add an angle and some elements of her own imagination to build a fine read.
Shweta! I hope you find ‘fine read’ to be an issue for you. Don’t stop at fine, roll beyond and find better grounds. 🙂
P.S. Few parts of the story have been edited for grammatical and syntactical errors.