Delhi was a mad place, we witnessed a couple of fistfights in traffic, horns constantly sounded, and touts dodged taxis, private cars and tuk-tuks. First published on my travel site December 2012.
I wasn’t surprised the first time a small and terrifically dirty child approached our tuk-tuk. We were easy marks, two white women in an open air vehicle, a captive audience at the stoplight. When I say child, I should clarify, she was probably a young mother because she was carrying a baby and a kid about six was tagging along with her too. But the eldest of the trio was little more than a teenage girl. The beggars all have a standard thing that they do, the bow a bit while placing their hands together in a Christian prayer position just under their chin. If they speak English it’s a few words, usually limited to “please” and “money”. After they greet then they raise their right hand to their mouth mimicking placing a small pinch of food to eat. I had no doubt these people were hungry. I’m sure they were hungry to wash, and sleep somewhere safe and away from the elements. They were also hungry for a chance at surviving past young adulthood. It was heartbreaking to turn away but I did and I felt like a complete imperialistic pig each time I did. So I had to do what Wayne Dyer suggests and offered up a prayer for their safety and well-being. But we were told not to give them money under any circumstance. Our tour guides also told us they are urged to not give them money. They said this with sadness, adding it was hard to see the poor in the streets.
The tuk-tuk drivers did a masterful job of ignoring the people at the intersections. Some of the drivers would wave them off if they were being too aggressive or wouldn’t leave us alone. Our driver was a quiet man, he didn’t want to try to engage us in conversation like many would. He was probably in his 30′s or 40′s, his clothing was clean and pressed. I was guessing he didn’t spend sleep many nights in his three-wheeler and had a place to go at night. His silence wasn’t rude but it was studied as if he were lost in his own thoughts. Many of the tuk-tuks were decorated with Hindu gods and goddesses, symbols for good luck (you need it in that traffic) but this cab was clean and completely without decoration. He was also the only driver that charged us a fair price and we didn’t cut the fare in half. The fare was a pittance, maybe two bucks if that. Our driver didn’t have to make the trio of children leave us alone. The teen mother was terribly shy and when we said no, she backed away and started off to another car. But the little boy wouldn’t leave, he kept speaking to us: “Lady, lady! Lady lady!” and insisting we give him money. The young girl heard him and spoke hurried angry words as she snatched and then twisted his arm to move him along. I gasped at the rough handling and tried to calm my fears for this little boy wandering between cars waiting to speed off from the light. It was unspeakably dangerous, a tiny child wandering in traffic. But the boy escaped her grasp again and came towards us. This time, just as he was about to launch into his sales pitch, the driver motioned him forward, reached in between his legs and pulled out a water bottle as he asked the boy to hold out his hands. The driver poured water into the kid’s cupped hands and he drank greedily. I wanted to weep for the kindness. I wanted to weep because the boy was thirsty. I wanted to weep because I saw God working through this man. A humbling moment of God working through this man in such a small way. When we parted at our destination, I bid him “Namaste”, I bowed to the divinity in him.
I think about this driver a lot. May he never be hungry, cold, hurt, or thirsty.