I thought of finishing the work that day, no matter how long that would take. But alas, it seemed that the nature nodded negative. The sky got black with thick cloud rendering almost dark at that early afternoon. Thunder rumbled and lightning flickered and it started drizzling.
Hurriedly, I put on my raincoat but without much avail. I put all official papers in my bag and scrambled towards the nearby rickshaw stand.
A few rickshaws were parked scattered. The pullers cringed into their hooded rickshaws.
It would take minimum an hour to reach my office and none of them agreed to pull me in that weather.
For last over a month, I was preparing nominal roll of slum dwellers for a multinational charitable organization, where I serve. The organization would bring them under some rehabilitation program.
I kept standing in a fix, soaking in the rain. One of the puller suddenly agreed, I don’t know what goaded him, may be at the sight of my helplessness.
I got into his rickshaw in a hurry.
The middle aged Rickshaw Puller pulled down a waterproof curtain and tucked around my legs and he himself put on a polythene made shirt and a cap.
The rain and the gust gathered strength as we started. Head on wind made it almost impossible for the rickshaw to pull. It appeared that the rickshaw would turn turtle.
-You better halt somewhere by the road. I urged the puller.
There appeared a giant gate of a roadside walled complex. The gate was roofed with rectangular slanting structure with engraved Bangla tiles on it. Somehow he pulled the rickshaw under the gate.
The gate was locked from inside. He parked the rickshaw against the iron work of the gate which was saving us from the blast and the roof was giving us partial shelter from the rain.
-We cannot continue like this for long. I thought.
A private car started honking to enter through the gate. A watchman came running and opened the gate. The car drove in as the rickshaw puller cleared the gate by pulling the rickshaw aside. A man was seen sitting at the back seat.
Minutes later the watchman waved at us to get inside with a big shout.
It was an old pattern two storied building sat on a raised foundation with a spacious roofed verandah and a pretty big green patch in front.
I jumped on to the verandah as the puller parked the rickshaw by it. The puller followed suit after parking his rickshaw aside.
I got almost soaked from knee down.
– I can manage by brushing off my head and face. I thought.
But the patched-up polythene wear could not save the rickshaw puller much. He got soaked totally. He was squeezing off his cloths standing at one corner of the verandah. I felt very bad at his plight.
-He got into this condition because of me. He could very well decline like other puller. A sense of guilt instilled in me.
I felt piety for him. I also didn’t have any extra cloth to give him.
-I would definitely provide him with some dry cloth if this house belonged to me. I thought.
Driver came out of the house after reaching his master in his room.
By that time I spruced up myself by putting my neck tie and collar etc. in place.
-It’s not likely for the rain to stop soon. You may sit in the drawing room, sir.
Driver took a good look at me and said.
I looked at my Rickshaw Puller.
-If I could do something to make him comfortable. I thought.
-Don’t worry, I am taking him.
Driver assured me sensing my hesitation.
I felt very good at him.
They had some conversation and scooted to the garage.
There is a room on top of the open garage. Perhaps for the driver to live.
The drawing room was quite spacious, stuffed with cozy sofa, carpet, furniture and other trappings. Minimum twenty person could easily sit there.
-Master is very ill, he is just back from seeing doctor. He lives here alone, all his family members are away.
Old household servant brought a hot cup of tea along with some biscuits and said as he placed the tray on a side table.
-That’s the guest room, it has a wash room attached with soap and towel. Please have a wash if you like and take this hot cup of tea, it would definitely refresh you. It doesn’t seem likely that the rain would stop soon. You may even have a roll and relax on the bed.
I bowed in silence to express my gratitude towards the master of the house. He shows so much of hospitality to someone unknown.
I’m just an unwanted fellow in danger. He does not have any role to put us in this predicament.
I met my rickshaw puller few hours back and I am to some extent responsible for his precarious condition today. Both of us have taken refuge in this house to save ourselves from fury of elements. I thought.
I went out on to the verandah. The nature was venting out its fury unabated.
Rickshaw Puller was sipping tea sitting on a wooden stool by the side of parked car. It appeared that he has somehow managed with his soaked cloths.
-Ever enigmatic nature has created an unseen strand of bondage between us and with that pull now at this moment we have taken refuge in this unknown house. I thought as I looked at the Rickshaw Puller engrossed in sipping tea.
-Sir, your tea is getting cold. I got back to present by the voice of old servant.
-I am a guest in this house now. Because they are treating me that way. They offered me the guest room ready with all essentials. I can easily change into dry cloth and give my half soaked wear to the servant who would iron those dry happily. I thought.
-There were no sign of stopping the rain soon. It’s not a bad idea to take even a nap in the guest room.
-But I don’t feel comfortable on any unknown bed, that’s a bad habit I admit.
Tea must have got cold by then. I don’t like cold tea. Even then I picked the cup to have a sip.
-Wow, tea was still hot, the old man must have heated it afresh. I thought.
The garage is clearly seen through the open door. The Rickshaw Puller is dozing leaning against the wall.
-He must be very tired thus could sleep in half wet cloth like that.
I felt bad for him indeed. A sense of helplessness for not being able to do anything for the Rickshaw Puller started pestering me.
-Should I ask the old servant to get him some dry cloths and arrange a makeshift bed for him in one corner of this huge house? I thought.
-Such a big guest room having soft bed and dry cloths which are available for me not for him who needs those badly! I heaved out a sigh of despair.
Nature was giving vent to full fury and strength. The master and his servant were in deep sleep inside while life outside have come to a halt by the heavy pouring and gusty wind. Sporadic lightning was streaking across the sky.
My Rickshaw Puller also gave in sleep fully, sitting on the stool. None were awake saving me.
All the grass on the lawn have dipped comfortably in well over ankle deep water. Elevated floor of the garage is barely surviving with nose up. Rickshaw puller in deep sleep were squirming sometimes as the sprinkle of rain water fell on him brought by sporadic gust.
I didn’t know anybody by name here. I looked for the old servant but none were seen nearby. I was in a fix as to where and how to look for them.
I came out on to the verandah and called out for rickshaw puller in a loud voice. My voice did not reach him over the din of rain drop.
-How deep is his sleep! I thought.
Again I called out to the top of my voice. That did it. He stood straight, looked around totally startled. It seemed he forgot his present location.
He looked at me and perhaps re-orientated himself and scrambled through the rain and came on to the verandah.
-Sir, any problem? He gasped out while brushing his newly drenched portion of his body.
He scrambled assuming some problem with me. I clearly understood.
I led him inside the guest room without any hesitation.
-Change up with the dry clothes and have some sleep on the bed. Don’t worry, I would call you as the rain stops.
He looked straight in my eyes totally puzzled, did not utter a single word.
This is a superb act of our great Creator. If he decreases the sharpness of some of our senses then He compensates that by reinforcing the power of other senses to bring an equilibrium.
The illiterate Rickshaw Puller did not find proper expression for sudden outburst of his feeling. But his eyes and facial expression betrayed full of that.
He gazed at my eyes. No Rickshaw Puller would ever look at someone based on the relation of business usual.
He fully understood my helplessness but read my heart and accepted my hospitality with deep gratitude. But the poor illiterate Rickshaw Puller did not want an iota of disgrace for me at any cost.
He can have deep sleep in half soaked cloth sitting on a stool just like that. He expects nothing more than that. He is not sure whether he would be able to sleep on soft clean bed in nice dry gentlemen dress. But he is adamant not to put me in any embarrassment.
How long we looked at each other I’m not sure. We got out of the state of induced hallucination with the arrival of the old servant.
Rain stopped completely, water also drained out letting the green lawn have fresh breath. Sun even peeked before setting.
I returned to my office in his rickshaw having profusely thanked the old servant and through him to his unseen master.
We did not talk a single word in rest of the way.
Darkness has fully swallowed the area by then. There was no light around due to lack of electricity. Power lines must have been pulled down by the storm.
I took out a note of five hundred taka from my pocket and extended my hand towards my Rickshaw Puller.
I was not sure whether he saw the worth of the note in darkness.
Again, he looked in my eyes. His eyes glowed in darkness. Though I could not read the expression but he had a smiling face I felt.
-I don’t need that Sir. He smiled exposing his speckled teeth.
I was in a fix what to say but I lost all my courage to force upon him. I stood dumb extending my hand.
-See you Sir. Let me try to pull some more passengers before I call it a day. He mumbled while turning his rickshaw.
-This is my office, do not hesitate to come for anything. I blurted out.
By then he paddled away his rickshaw. I was not sure whether he heard me.
The Rickshaw Puller did not accept my hospitality in effect though he needed that badly, just to save me from any embarrassment. Finally he gave up his dues!
A sigh of some unknown feeling heaved out vacating my chest. I looked up at the rain drenched star studded sky.
Everyday a queer thought haunts me that the Rickshaw Puller will come to my office any day or I would confront him at the turn of some road. He would definitely ask for some help like; a job for his son or some financial help for his daughter’s marriage or for treatment of his wife.
– That man with such lofty mind would beg to me! I don’t want to see that man again. I pray to Almighty Lord.