he rounded shoulders seemed heavy. Everyone’s back looks heavy, and everyone is under a burden. Everyone has struggles, and everyone suffers.

“Please share the OTP.” Pulling me out of my thoughts was the rickshaw driver, the driver with rounded shoulders. I complied, “3689”. And our ride started.

I have always enjoyed rickshaw rides, watching the world go by under a shade, away from the dreadful heat. Rickshaws are a work of art. They are cozy and inviting. No wonder, couples have sneaky romances in rickshaws.

The Rickshaw Driver held my attention. He stared straight ahead, as though finishing this ride was his mission. His jaw moved, he was eating his favorite pan. I don’t know if it was his favorite. It seemed it was though.

I was on my way to meet my friends for a group hangout. It was 12 kilometers away from my location. We are in for a long journey. I continued staring at the Rickshaw Driver’s back, pondering on his journey.

Talking to Rickshaw Drivers is an art that I’m not proficient in. I admire people that can talk to Rickshaw Drivers freely, so free as though they were best buddies. If I could talk to this man, I would probably talk his ear off. I wanted to ask him all sorts of questions.

Thankfully his voice came in, “Mam? Would you like me to play some songs?” I would usually say no. Being stuck in traffic with the rickshaw’s speaker blasting some item song is a nightmare of mine. But today I was curious, ‘What songs would he listen to usually? What kind of person is he?’ I responded back, “Please do.”

Aaj Bazaar mein by Nayyara Noor played through. The song was very fitting with the scenery. We were going through a Bazaar, full of peanut sellers, small jewellery shops and cotton candy sellers. There were vegetable and fruit stalls surrounded by aunties bargaining. I rested back in my seat, satisfied with the view.

I tried to take a look at his face, through rear view mirrors but, no luck. His song choice was beautiful as he hummed sweetly too. Then came the dreaded traffic. He switched off the engine and the song too as he waited patiently. The traffic light blinked 50…49…48.

The traffic can be quiet but for some suckers, it’s not. They honk to no end as if everyone is preventing them from going about.

Dread creeped onto me as the driver taking me to my destination, started honking too. I held my forehead, ‘Impatience, impatience’ I muttered to myself. The driver’s voice came in, “It’s not impatience, I’m responding to the guy honking in his big car.” I was baffled, he spoke perfect English!

A glance at his contact card below his seat revealed he was a doctor! I could now see the temple tips of his glasses. He was well-educated…and he was riding a rickshaw. I was intrigued. There was so much I wanted to ask him, I feared being rude.

The engine finally started and we were moving again. The area we entered had empty roads and land, barren for an architect to create.

‘Maybe he was an actual doctor or holds a Ph.D.?’ My mind now running with questions.

“Dr. Bahadoor Shah?” I said his name out loud, I felt brave in doing so. And then followed silence. ‘Maybe he didn’t hear me?’ I wondered as we hit a huge bumper. A small tch left his mouth as he struggled to get his balance back. He started speeding, eager to drop me off almost.

“I used to teach History.” He responded in perfect English again, with his mouth full of pan. “Covid started a new chapter for me.” His shoulders seemed heavier, as he dreadfully answered. He changed the song to ‘Tune ye noor jo zulfo mein’ by Mehdi Hassan.

We stayed quiet for a while, appreciating the ghazal.