Are you new to this city?” asked a daily rickshaw puller to me as I was on my way home. “No”, I answered. I belong to this city as old as I am. He laughed and pedalled the rickshaw on the black metallic road in the cold and cloudy day. Not an easy job for him to be engaged in.
It was along the way that I saw the city of Birgunj the way it is and also the people in their day-to-day life. I found such and encounter quite revealing. The chaiwallahs (tea makers) were busy making tea for the people gathered around the small shops. It proved useful to them to probably discuss the current issues and trends through their opinions, views and conclusions. The adult men were seen with local newspapers in one hand and mud teacups on the other. Horses were pulling the Tongas—a unique mode of transport in the 21st century. The ruthless sound of tempos were calling the passengers to join them, maybe to cross the border (taking them to Raxaul). The horns blaring out; loudspeakers hanging on bamboos here and there. It’s all part of the picture. But the picture as a whole was a fascinating one and the colors can’t be matched anywhere else. All these have to be personally experienced to savour the smell and be impressed by the sounds and sights.
The four wheeler thelas (carts) loaded with crispy, mouth-watering aroma of road side chats and panipuris. Gas stoves on the thelas were switched on to cook the delicious item of the day, I think. Black clouds hung over the Ghantaghar, (the famous clock tower of Birgunj) looked menacing and send the message of an imminent heavy morning shower. It certainly was something waiting upon anxiously. A team of joggers were approaching towards the tower as if in a hurry. Hawkers on bicycle carrying bundle of newspapers were entering the narrow lanes.
The shifting scenes and images and the people hurrying on for their errands and mission were certainly thrilling. One never gets to feel exhausted towards the end, and I have always found the rickshaw journey interesting and at times quite enchanting – especially the urban scene from the rickshaw. One falls in love at the first meeting with this city not only because of its scenario but the goodwill and good humor of the ordinary people; a friendly reciprocation at all times, love and affection towards others, may be especially in children. Like Ruskin Bond says about Mussorie that, ‘I just pray to god that if I can find a place in corner of this city and take my last breath watching and writing about the city and its people’. Here we have it in Birgunj making its indelible print on our mind.