Jun 21, 2009

Indian rickshaw in my home

Yesterday, a friend returning from India brought a toy rickshaw for my 3 year old son. More than him I was excited to see it and I have to confess, I played with it a little too.
Rickshaws, for the uninitiated, are three wheeler modes of transportation that run on two horse power motors. They have a long seat in the back that can seat three people and the driver seats in the narrow front section. There are no doors or seat belts but I have never heard of anyone falling out of a running rickshaw yet. All rickshaws have the same body but they are as unique as the driver who rides it. Some will be decorated with pictures of the god or goddess the rickshaw driver believes in. Some will have colorful festoons and ribbons hanging from the roof. The hi-tech ones will have loud stereos blasting the latest film songs or religious bhajans (hymns).

As a single girl living in Mumbai, India, the ubiquitous rickshaw always came to my rescue when I needed to reach an appointment in time or a ride home in the middle of the night. Like taxi cab drivers in New York or Boston, the rickshaw drivers too had their preferences on where they wanted to go and if it was worth their time to travel a small distance or not. Especially at the end of their shift they preferred to take a passenger going in the direction of their home. On a hot, summer noon one could find them parked under a shady tree, reclining in the back seat, taking a nap. There were kind rickshaw drivers who would give you a ride when it was raining cats and dogs in the city and there were the crooked ones who would charge you an exorbitant amount of money if you were in a fix.

I remember one early morning I hired a rickshaw from the Mumbai airport and asked the driver to take me to home. On the way he told me he will have to charge me night rates since it was fairly early in the morning. Too tired to argue with him at that ungodly hour I agreed. When we reached my home he showed me the conversion chart. The amount of money he was charging me did not seem right but “the chart doesn't lie” so I paid him off and went inside. Only later did I realize he had shown me the rate conversion chart of a taxi cab and not an auto rickshaw. An expensive lesson learnt early in the day.
On my last visit to India, my then two and a half year old son had a rocking time riding in the rickshaw. There was no car seat or seat belt to confine him, he could feel the wind on his face and see all the wonderful sights a busy city like Mumbai has to offer.
You can see why I am delighted to have a toy rickshaw for my son to play with and for me to relive my wonderful, single life in Mumbai. And why I had to write about it.

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  1. Hi Jaya

    Thanks for stopping by. It's great to hear from an ex-Bombayiite. Can you send me your mail id so I can send you more details about the book club.

  2. gurgaon does not have rickshaws, but when we visit Hyderabad, my kids love to ride in the rickshaws. in fact, they prefer to ride in the rickshaws rather than in a car.

    Shrey has a toy rickshaw too and plays a lot with it!!!

  3. It is quite an experience riding in autorickshaws in India.myself being from chennai which is famous for the most unfriendly drivers, i still love the mini medium of transport available and my 1 year old seemed to be delighted every time we went in one too on my vacation to India this time.Kudos to you for writing about one of them.

  4. That is a cute thing to ride in! I bet your son relly likes that for a gift!! Thanks for sharing and for stopping by my blog!

  5. cho chweet...brings back lot of memories...not all good though..but yeah..we used to ride to school in a rickshaw..easily 10 kids crammed in one...imagine the horror of it ! used to be fun then though...
    It did topple me on my head too once...in andheri..that left me shell-shocked..though not for too long ;)


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