I first met Pawan when I moved into our new office in NOIDA. Just a short walk away, under a makeshift tarpaulin cover as protection against the elements, Pawan sells tea, paan masala and cigarettes.
Actually Pawan does some other things besides. He also plies a cycle-rickshaw- rented for Rs 100 a day- does odd jobs in the neighbourhood and is always “available” for a chat with all the auto drivers, gatekeepers who drop in for a chai. He even tried to sell me a used Nokia once- for all of Rs 900/- – his profit from the deal would only have been Rs 100/-, he assured me. I refused to bite, but someone must have done so, because I did not see the phone again.
Have I given the impression that Pawan is very enterprising and active? If so, let me correct it right away. Pawan’s main activity is slacking off- in summer, you can spot him doubled up inside a stationary auto-rickshaw, snoring away. In winter, he is usually dozing off on his cycle rickshaw. When he is not around, sleeping or otherwise slacking off or on the rare occasion plying his cycle-rickshaw, his “Madam” takes over the tea-stall.
In all the time I have known them, I have never heard Pawan address her as anything other than “Madam”. On her part, she is less respectful; does not hesitate in raising her voice and letting him have a piece of her mind when he is not pulling his weight.