Days come, days go. Some days are mundane, others start out giving us plenty of food for thought. And so it was...I booked an auto to go to work today. It was a mega long day as no other in quite a few years (pulled an "all dayer" - well, why can't we say that if we can say "all nighter"? - at work, a 7 am to 9 pm shift and feeling proud of myself for still being able to do this, or rather once again being able to do this even if it's a one off!). Well, to come back to the point, I got into the auto. He started off by saying it was his "boni" (the first business of the day), so he wanted cash to be transferred directly to him instead of through Ola. He was willing to cancel the ride. So i agreed to pay him directly. "Don't you lose money if you cancel a ride?" asked the curious me. "We do lose Rs. 15/- but to start off the day with no cash is difficult. It is boni time, you see!" I felt around for my pen-drive in my bag. Was missing. Oh *****, I had forgotten it home. I asked if he'd turn around and take me back home. He did so without any second thoughts. I got off at the gate and was just entering, when I suddenly remembered it was in my mobile pouch around my neck!!! D***. Anyway, got back into the rick and set off again. Driver was amused. I was not. There was a dhoti wound around the top bar and held in place by the canvas on top. There was a crumpled dhoti hanging between the driver's cabin and the passengers' like a half curtain. Yet another was hanging over the right exit. This only added to my irritation." "Yeh kya sabhi kapde taang ke rakhe hain?" I asked. "Yahi ghar hai, yahi kaam bhi karta hoon" he said. "Kyon, ghar nahin hai kya?" "Nahin." Curiosity got the better of me and I did something I never usually do. "Maa-Baap, beewi, bacche sab kahaan hai?" "Maa-Baap kab ke chale gaye. Shaadi nahin kee." I kicked myself for asking - what business did I have being so curious? I kept silent. After a while he opened up. The story he told was strange. "Ek ladki dekhi thi. Bahut moti thi", he said. "Accha? Agar patli ladki ke saath shaadi karte, toh kya guarantee hai, ke woh baad mein nahin moti hoti?" He bid me to listen to the full story. Apparently he took to have a masala dosa and the next question she asked was, "Tum mere liye kitna doge?" He informed me that besides the mandatory bride price that is paid at the time of the nuptials in their community, girls demand a lot of money and this one wanted 2 lakhs. "Where could I get that money?" he asked. "And if now she is asking so much, God knows what she will ask for later." I did not say anything. While I felt sad for the guy, a part of me could not help thinking of the motivation behind girls demanding money, considering the uncertain future they might face in the future. I remained silent. What a strange business this marriage is! Some communities demand money to marry the girl and then take the girl away with the money. Others pay money to get a wife and then baulk at how much the girls demand. Is this what marriage was meant to be? What is so 'holy' about such a union? It is the crassest of human trade I can think of. Or maybe it was meant to be a financial transaction, given what I have heard of marriages between uncles and nieces, children of brother and sister being married as a system of 'keeping the money in the family'. Humans, their complicated societies and institutions - all I know is we are all fit for institutions! Anyway, as I got off, I did something I don't normally do. Paid him extra without his asking for it. Maybe because he did not demand anything extra. To add to it, as I thanked him while getting out, "Bless you" he said. Not something any autorickshaw walla has ever said to me so far!!!