Hasari Pal walked into The Harrington Street Arts Centre with a thin, coarse, traditional cotton towel slung on his left shoulders. Hasari, for the uninitiated, is a rickshaw-puller. What then is his business in an art gallery? For answers let’s turn to Kounteya Sinha who is having his photography exhibition, – Being and Becoming, here and there are some pictures of the said tribe taken by him. “They are synonymous to Kolkata’s daily life and immortalized in celluloid for years. But men who pull the emblematic two-wheeled contraption – rickshaws in Kolkata have for long been social pariahs, shunned and neglected. I wanted to honor them as Kolkata’s ‘real heroes’.” said the photographer.
- But who is this Hasari?.
The City of Joy… Roland Joffe….. Om Puri……. his avatar moves in with his family to Kolkata to start a new life, and then becomes a rickshaw-puller in The City of Joy.
The ‘First’ rickshaw-puller sauntered in his characteristic style on June 26 to catch a glimpse of the display. “Rickshaw is an intrinsic part of Kolkata’s history. It should never die. It can be a massive tourist draw if Bengal markets them. They can take tourists to the most interesting by-lanes of Kolkata. Look at what Hong Kong has done with their rickshaws. Even in Kolkata they should be allowed to function in areas where they are not a hindrance.”, he who gets into the bones of characters he essays knows and adds “I want to ask the government who are talking about doing away with the rickshaws. Have you sorted out your drainage system? In the monsoons, nothing moves in Kolkata besides these rickshaws. The government should provide an alternate plan to rickshaw-pullers of the city for their survival”
The gathered – 50 rickshaw-pullers specially invited, actor Swastika Mukherjee, Anjum Katyal, Dr Rupali Basu President and CEO Apollo Hospitals, director of Oxford Bookstore Maina Bhagat and countless others, could only listen in awe as he continued, “Rickshaws are synonymous to Kolkata. Every photograph, memorabilia and cinema have immortalized them – be it the movie version of the City of Joy or the greatest works of Mrinal Sen. The irony however is that the men who pull these rickshaws are among the city’s most unimportant and neglected people who have no identity, no recognition and are not part of anybody’s plan. This has to change. Kolkata has to do for them what Mumbai has done for the dabbawalahs”
On her turn Swastika echoed, “I think it is a wonderful idea and thought by Kounteya to pay tribute to the rickshaw-pullers of Kolkata. They are an intrinsic part of the city. We still rely on the honest and trust worthy rickshaw-pullers when we come home at night and there are no other conveyances available.”
Om it was learned would greatly cherish a screening of The City of Joy with the rickshaw-pullers.