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The Red Shirt

December 10, 2023 | By

Desperately looking for a coolie, Santosh Bakaya chances upon a variety of red-shirted men, wondering who the coolie among them is.

Enjoy Episode 11 of your favourite morning read with your morning coffee! ☕ Santosh Bakaya’s ever popular MM Season 3 comes to you with episodes that will make your Sunday mornings extra special! ☀️📆 🎉

11 the red shirt

He stood there, his hand in his pocket, with a lost look on his face

It was a Saturday, and we were traveling to Jammu. At the Jaipur platform, there was no coolie. I had almost raced towards a man wearing a red shirt, mistaking him for a coolie, but immediately turned away sheepishly when I realised he was only wearing a red shirt; he was no coolie.

“Everyone wearing red is not a coolie!” My husband quipped, pointing at his own red hoodie.

Ordinarily, we lugged our own luggage, but this time our luggage was heavy, so we desperately needed a coolie.

A tea vendor selling tea at the platform sensed our discomfiture, and offered to arrange a coolie for us, and dialled a number.

Jaldi sey aajao. Mainey savari roki hui hai.” He told the man at the other end.

The phone was on speaker mode, so I could clearly hear the coolie speaking.

“Abhi main bidi pi raha hoon. Bidi pikar aaoonga.” At that moment, I snatched the phone from the vendor and blurted out, “Please,  coolie ji aa jaaiyey. Hum bahut pareshan hain.”

On hearing a stranger’s voice he stammered, “Abhi aata hoon.” And in no time he was there, still clinging on to the bidi, as if it were a life belt. We were surprised to see him — a smart, moustached guy with a neat red shirt and khakee trousers and a wide belt. He stood there, his hand in his pocket, with a lost look on his face. Is he a coolie, I wondered. And by the way, he was quite a dapper young man, and looked nothing like a coolie other than his red-shirt and red turban.

“Madam, main aapkey ‘Please’ key kaaran aaya. Nahin to main shaayad aata hi nahin.” The moment he had seen us, he had chucked his precious bidi. My husband and I looked at each other, his old worldly manners touched us.

“Thank you so much,” I said, gratefully. And he promptly replied, “Mention not, ma’am,” in a perfect accent. I almost dropped my mobile in amazement.

The train was visible in the distance. He safely deposited us with our luggage in the train and retreated. I saw him pull out a packet of bidi as the train started chugging along.

At Pathankot, when the train stopped, I peeped through the window.  The platform was almost deserted. Only a tiny sparrow hopped, unabashed by the chill, cheering the lone blanketed, stooped person, plodding aimlessly on the platform,  lost in his blanket. Lost in his own world.

Soon a few shawl-clad women materialised on the foggy scene and a couple of mongrel and a skeletal cat also made cameo appearances. And the train moved on, once again, towards its destination. It was running two hours late.

Morning Meanderings Season 3 by Santosh Bakaya

Morning Meanderings is a weekly musings column by Santosh Bakaya

Saturday had moved into Sunday. The scene had moved from Jaipur to Jammu. There was a chill in the air, but the sky was blue. It had the air of an old woman over whose troubled face a smile had broken, the rheumy eyes had cleared, and now were bright and shining, the blueness remarkable in its intensity.

The station was buzzing with people. But, unlike Jaipur, there was no dearth of coolies here, their high-decibel persuasive eloquence was clashing with each other.

A few scudding clouds, wispy in the crystalline sky, looked down at us, as we were surrounded by loudly jabbering coolies.

Before we could decide on any coolie, an authoritative one after a salute thrown in our direction, hefted our luggage and without a word of bargaining, started walking towards the exit while we hopped and skipped behind him, left with no alternative.

Before we could decide what was up,  he had put the luggage in a car, and reverentially opened the door to the car. Preempting our question, he said,“Sahab, has sent the car. I am the driver, Mushtaq.”

The ‘sahab’ he was talking of was my elder brother.

“Everyone wearing red is not a coolie,” my husband quipped again pointing at Mushtaq’s red full-sleeved shirt, as we finally settled down in the car. Well, I wondered, is every red-shirted coolie truly a coolie?


Did You Miss the Delectable Morning Meanderings Season 2? Click to Read! 

Don’t Forget to Revisit Morning Meanderings Season 1!!

Dr Santosh Bakaya is the author of three mystery novels for young adults, and a book of essays titled Flights From My Terrace, which was recently published as an e-book on Smashwords. Her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad Of Bapu has been published by Vitasta Publishers, Delhi, India in May 2015 and has been receiving rave reviews from everywhere. Although a Political theorist, with a doctorate in political theory, it is literature which has been her first love. She was awarded the Reuel international award for language and literature 2014 for her long poem Oh Hark!, which forms part of the Significant Anthology. Many of her poems have figured in the highly commended category in Destiny Poets, a UK based website and many are part of international anthologies. Right now, she is giving the final touches to her satirical novel, tentatively titled Sanakpur Shenanigans.
All Posts of Santosh Bakaya

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Today’s Motivation

<div class=at-above-post addthis_tool data-url=></div>The word Culture comes from Latin cultura amini' which means cultivation of the soul, and thus Jawaharlal Nehru said Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit<!-- AddThis Advanced Settings above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><div class=at-below-post addthis_tool data-url=></div><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->
The word Culture comes from Latin "cultura amini' which means cultivation of the soul, and thus Jawaharlal Nehru said "Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit"