Rajbir Singh (40) a rickshaw puller in the streets of Amritsar, has penned down his experiences with passengers in his book, ‘Rickshaw Tey Chale Zindagi’ (Life on a rickshaw). The book is a compilation of short stories on his 20 years experience till now.
Rickshaw pulling was not a choice but a necessity for Singh. His father’s health deteriorated which forced him to leave studies and pull rickshaw to make the ends meet.
“With no other source of income visible to me then, I left studies and sat on the rickshaw of my father. It wasn’t that we were ancestrally poor, it was the circumstances that landed me into this profession,” Singh told The Indian Express.
The 14-chapter book, priced at Rs 200, has been published by a Rajpura-based publisher. It’s either the love or pain, grief or sorrow, that bring a writer out of a man, and Singh’s case of no different.
“I started writing because I was in pain. The pain was due to the discrimination that is faced by several poor Sikhs like me. I was watching a television programme, in which rich and well-settled Sikhs were being honoured. It was then that I decided to write about those poor Sikhs who work as mechanics, rickshaw pullers, labourers to run their families. The teachings of Guru Nanak said there is nothing like rich Sikh or poor Sikh. I decided to spread this message through my writing and started sending articles to vernaculars,” said Singh.
Singh calls them ‘unforgettable’, yes the passengers who not only boarded his rickshaw but entered his memoirs through the pen. While talking to Express, he recalls, a polio-stricken girl whom he used to see walk daily to office.
“One day, I shunned hesitation and asked her to sit on my rickshaw. She refused because she had no money but I told her I won’t take any money from her. For many days, I dropped her like this before she left the job and never met me again,” he recounts. Golden Temple is Amritsar’s main attraction and lakhs of tourist, even from abroad come here. And many of them have piled on Singh’s rickshaw.
“I was stunned when they offered ice-cream to a poor like me. Not only me but all five rickshaw pullers whom they hired. We refused but they made us eat forcibly,” he recalled. Singh has also installed a donation box in his rickshaw which says ‘Guru Di Golak, Lodwandan Layi’ (Guru’s Donation Box, only for the poor). “I put a part of my daily earnings into that box. Any passenger who wishes to also donates. At month end this money goes to the poor who cannot afford medicines, books, etc., or any needy passenger who sits in my rickshaw. He/she needs it more than me,” he says. Singh is now promoting his book through friends, social media and passengers, and some copies of the book are always available on his rickshaw. “After all, this rickshaw has given me everything including courage and confidence to write this book,” he says.