That rickshaw-pullers in this city fall victim to mugging is nothing new. But a story related by one such puller should leave anyone speechless by the element of surprise and shock with which the poor man was ripped off. The unbelievable incident took place in Mohammadpur, one of the most crowded localities in the capital. Now that the monsoon rains-true to their character-have made a strong statement, rickshaw-pullers do not miss the opportunity of demanding fare on the higher side. When the puller concerned here was asked by a woman if he would carry her to a location close to Noorjahan Road, he agreed and was delighted to see that the female passenger did not bargain at all. He demanded Tk 30 for the distance for which in normal time the fare is Tk 20.
The drama unfolded on reaching the destination. The passenger asked the puller to carry the bag to her ground-floor room through the narrow passageway. He obliged, considering the heavy shopping bag she was carrying. No sooner had the man placed the bag on the spot indicated by her than the passenger grabbed her shirt by the collar. "Hush up, give me whatever is there in your pocket''; or else, I'll shout".
She left many things unspoken. The woman did not have to say, "You know what, if I shout." There was none except a toddler in the room. His heart pounding in his bosom, the poor rickshaw-puller was shaking like a banana leaf in the wind. But he had the wit enough to see in his mind's eye what would happen to him if she really carried out her threat of shouting. He would be accused of sexual assault on the woman and people rushing to her rescue would not listen to him.
So, the man with his uncertain fingers, still shaking, surrendered his income of that day till then, Tk 290 and heaved a shy of relief as soon as he got out to be on his rickshaw pedals. He thanked the all merciful for returning in one piece from that building which, he claims, is allotted for lower class government employees.
Surely the rickshaw-puller cannot conjure up such a story. Overtaken by the suddenness and the emotion that swelled up in his breast later on, the hapless rickshaw-puller did not express so much anguish for the monetary loss as for his lost world. He has been pulling rickshaw in the locality for the past 25 years and never faced any situation remotely akin to this one. He thought, a man of his humble standing could not be a target of dupery like this. But now he has learnt a dark lesson the hard way.
Muggers and cheaters are usually male. Women involved in such affairs are either used as baits. But in recent times stories of women playing lead role in drug trade or other clandestine criminal activities are surfacing. In the Mohammadpur case, the woman has tried his trickery on a simple and innocent rickshaw-puller. If this is her first victim, she will be encouraged to carry on with such crimes encouraged by her success. If she has become a veteran swindler, many more rickshaw-pullers will fall victim to her trick. But should she be allowed to go unchallenged?
What is worrying is that more people, including women, are exploring dishonest avenues for making money. Some of these means are novel no doubt and the victims are taken by surprise. But is this all? Moral and ethical considerations are falling wayside, making room for the dishonest and the debauched. Whoever does not feel the compunction for taking away the reward of labour from a poor rickshaw-puller disqualifies himself or herself as a genuine member of the human species.
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