Allah Hafiz

Allah Hafiz

Story  by – Mohinder Pal Singh

“Sir, Can  you give  me  a  lift  till  next  crossing?”   I  felt  someone  ask  me  from  the side.

I  was on  my  bike  in  a  highly crowded  street  in old  Allahabad on  an  errand.  It was  around  7.30  PM  and  the  traffic at  this  hour  is  always clogging. I  gave  a  side  glance  and  found a  man  in  red  T-shirt  and  dirty  jeans speaking to  me. He  was  the  same  person  whom  I  had  seen  jumping  out of  a  tempo( a  four-wheeler diesel powered 8-seater auto-rickshaw)   a minute  back.   And  why  is  he  asking  lift  from  a  bike  rider, I thought? Nowdays  one  could  never  be  sure  of  the  intentions  of  people.  Suddenly  the  traffic  cleared   and  I  advanced  my   bike  about  five  feet  ahead  and  braked  again. He  too  took  two  steps  and  was  standing  aside  slightly  to  the  rear  so  as  to  sit  on  my   bike  as  a  pillion  the  moment  I answered  in  affirmative.

“Why  did  you  jump out  of  the tempo?  I asked  giving  a  hurried  sideway glance and  showing  my  doubt at his  intentions. The  traffic  was  badly   jammed and  I    being  a cool  rider  was  in  no  hurry to take  any  risks  and  wade  my  way  forward. Though  some  daily bikers  were  dodging  their  way , hustling  and  dredging  through  this daily  logjam.

“Sir, This  tempo  will  take  1  hour  to  cover  this  one  kilometer  and   I am  in  a  hurry  to  reach  home.” he  said  innocently.

Though    generally  very  wary of  giving  lift,  but  something  just  told  me that  it is  just  a  short  distance, so   while  keeping  my  eyes  at  the  traffic, I  nodded  my   head    which  indicated  to  him  ‘hop  on’. Which  he did immediately .  We  moved  about  15-20  yards  that there  was  another  snarl of  the traffic  and  halted  for  a  while.

“ What   work  do  you  do? ” I asked  .

“Sir,  I  am  a  driver  . I  drive  a  Scorpio  for  an  advocate  who  lives  in  Mundera.”He  said.

Amidst this maddening rush, suddenly  a  tempo( also called as  little dragons in Allahabad as they  emit chocking  soot all the  time)   coming  from the  other side  almost  bruised  us. We  both  leaned  to the   left  to  save  ourselves from  getting  hurt. At this  hour this   10-12 ft wide  road was  full of  rickshaws, bikes , bicycles and tempos , all  vying to move  ahead of each other. And the  worst was  everyone  is  in  a tearing  hurry . There was  very less space to  manoeuvre .  As we inched  a little  forward  two  rickshaws  blocked  the  way  because  their  wheels got  entangled.  Everyone  started  to  honk at  the  rickshaw pullers.  Poor  rickshaw pullers quickly  got  down  and  separated  their wheels. The  traffic began to  move  again albeit at snail’s pace.

“How  much  does  a  driver  get  as salary?” I  asked my  pillion.

“sir , about  Rs 4000 plus  Rs 50 as  daily allowance. And  I  work  30  days  a  month”. He  said.

“ why do you  work  all  days  ,  you  don’t  want  a  off-day?” I  asked.

“Sir,  what  will  I  do idling   at  home . Only on Sunday’s  I  come back  slightly early to attend to home  chores around  2  Pm  but  on  other  days  like today its  till  7  PM.”He  said.

Having  successfully  dodging  the  traffic for some time we  were  very  near the  crossing  now. He  looked  back  and  saw  his tempo  still  stuck  in  traffic.

“Why  you  wanted  to  reach  home  early  today? I asked.

“Sir, I  have a  2  year  old  daughter  and I  got  a call that she  is  not  well. You  please  drop  me  at  this  crossing  and  from  here  I  will  go. Sorry  to  have  delayed  you.” He    said  apologetically.

Where  do  you  have  to  go? I  asked.

“Sir, Akberpur” he  said

“How far is that? ” I  asked , as  I  did  not  know  this  part of  old-congested  city which  was  very  akin  to  Chandni Chowk area  of  Delhi.

“Sir,  about  1-2  Kilometers” he said.

“ You  will  not  get  any  tempo  from here  towards that  side? I  asked.

“No  Sir, tempos turn  left from this  crossing and  I  have  to  go  right. But  I  go  everyday ,  it  will  hardly  take  my 10-15  minutes”. He  said  while  dismounting from  the  bike.

Something  inwardly  told  me  this  man  needs help but  is  unable  to  ask for  it.

“Don’t  worry  we  will  save  your  15  minutes, sit back” . I  said  taking  a  quick  u-turn.

We dodged  the  traffic  this  time with  more care.  He kept  guiding me  . After  about a  kilometer  he  told  me  to turn into  a  small   dingy gali (very narrow lane). It  was  about  8-10 feet  wide  and  without  any  street  lights and  was just  a  brick-pathway. Even in the  darkness  of the  gali ,I could  see some  people  staring  at the  bike  being  driven  by  a Sardar. They  may  be  thinking  what  is  this  stranger  doing in  our  lane? But  they   may have  recognised my  pillion rider. Though  I  would  confess  that at  this  juncture,   I too  felt  a  bit uncomfortable but then  there is no fear in such moments. Even in those tight lanes, there is faith in basic human goodness and respect for human values and so I   quietly  carried  on  my  mission.  As  directed by  him we  entered another  narrow  and  dark  alley . The  houses  too  were  very   dimly lit. The  light  of  the  bike  was  tearing  through  the dreaded darkness. This  lane  was  not  wider  than six feet .   He  probably  sensed my  apprehension  and  said, “Sir , there  is power cut in our area  since morning”.

“OK”I  said. Hoping  that  his  house  was  near.

We  must  have  moved another   200 yards in  this  dimly  lit  alley when  he  suddenly said, “Rukiye , Sir(please  halt)”. And  I  braked and stopped.

“This  your house?”I  asked  pointing to a dimly  lit house  in front.

Instead  he  pointed  towards  a  still  narrower lane on  the  left side.

“It is  in there.” He  said,  while  getting  down  and  coming  in  front of  me.  Because  of some light from the dimly lit houses in the  gali we  could  see  each  other. This  was  the  first  time  I  saw  his  face little clearly. He looked    young  and  lean  probably in his early  thirties.  Red  coloured round neck t-shirt, dirty  jeans  and  leather  slippers,  which  I  had  noticed  correctly  from  the man  who had  jumped  from  the  tempo.

Janab  ,  kin shabdon se aapka  shukriya  ada  karon?( With  what   words  should  I  thank  you, respected  Sir). He muttered respectfully.

I  must  confess  that I   always  adored  Urdu  language. So polite,  so  smooth, so  melodious!                   I  suddenly remembered  that sometimes  my father  and  grand-father would    talk  in  urdu and  to our ears it  used to sound so  poetic.

He  was waiting for a return gesture  from my  side.

“By helping  someone in  need   whom you  don’t  know  at all”. I  took  a  pause  and  continued to  complete  the sentence  “Also, after  you  are  able to  help him,  tell  him  to  do  the  same for others  , if  he  asks  you how  he  should  thank  you. May  be  if we  initiate this   chain  and people  follow it faithfully, we  will  make  this  earth  a  better  place  to  live .” Saying  this I fell  silent  and  looked at  him.

His right  hand went  up slowly   and  respectfully  touching  his  brow and his  lips opened  to  whisper, “Allah Hafiz”

I  extended  my  hand, he  shook  it,  turned  back  and  ran  into  the  yet smaller  and  darker  lane.

I turned  my  bike and moved   towards my destination.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Snehashish on September 9, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Sir, beautiful story…. The ‘Indian Maupassant’!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Pulkit on September 10, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Neat…the story depicts a lot!!

    Reply

  3. Posted by vaishali on September 10, 2012 at 5:13 am

    good story , this reminds me ur story about a story about conversation of ur wife and maid. That was wonderful. Keep it up. These small fillers are always entertaining

    Reply

  4. Posted by Sharmila on October 6, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Nice story! You catch little incidents of life very well.

    Reply

  5. Thanks Maám

    Reply

  6. Posted by Ashis Mukherjee on January 7, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Touching!!

    Reply

  7. Posted by Yogesh on January 7, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Awesome story sir… After reading story helps us for positive approach towards life and be helpful and respectful…

    Reply

  8. Posted by Ravindra Shukla on January 8, 2017 at 7:01 am

    We only can make a better world for all of us. 👍

    Reply

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