Saturday, October 10, 2009

The old rickshaw puller in Delhi

I was very excited when I was in Delhi. I finally got to see the places I always wanted to see. I am not sure how many would fancy seeing the Parliament, the Rashtrapati Bhavan or the Red Fort, but I wanted to see it at least once in person and I got to do it when I was in Delhi a few months back. I have some very nice memories of Delhi & our stay there. The primary thing that comes to mind is the food we ate there & then the wide roads that we got to travel on & of course visiting old Delhi & the Chandni Chowk area was an experience.

The one thing I got thinking of suddenly & which eventually made me write this are the rickshaw pullers in Delhi. When we were there we had used their services in the Old Delhi area. I think they are largely found there. These are men of varying ages peddling away in the hot Delhi sun with two or three or sometimes as we actually saw 6 people on board their rickshaw. I like the idea of taking a different form of transport where available, mostly for the experience sake. And the idea of taking a cycle rickshaw ride was very exciting because that is long gone in Bangalore. The excitement lasted only until of course I was aboard one of them. Peddling the rickshaw is a tough task. Most times these guys are only constantly peddling never sitting down on their seat. And unlike your bike or car which u can accelerate again after you have slowed down, picking up speed on a cycle rickshaw after having slowed down is hard work & if the road is steep you can rest assured it will be doubly so.

We took a cycle rickshaw about three times we were there in Delhi. The first time was in the peak afternoon sun. The other two times were in the evening. The first time a young guy was riding it, the second time a middle aged man & finally the third time it was an old man. My first ride in the rickshaw was on a wooden plank kept behind the rickshaw & to sit there, one has to bend down & move himself up through an iron rod bent around the seat. The eventual seating position is such that you get to view all the traffic or people coming behind you, while the rickshaw guy & two other passengers get the front view.

The longest rickshaw ride was the last time we rode it in the evening & when an old man was peddling. The old man looked really old & I felt horrible about the thought that I was comfortably sitting behind when he was peddling away pulling three healthy young adults. He sweated profusely & not once sat down on his seat, this should basically give an idea as to how tough it must have been for him. Most of the other rickshaw guys were overtaking him comfortably. He only peddled on. Somewhere on the way the wheel on the left side got caught in a road crack & the rickshaw wouldn’t move forward. Only after I got off & pushed it a bit did it resume the journey again. A few times I considered getting off & walking but decided against it as it was his livelihood after all & I was glad that even at this old age he had chosen to earn his livelihood the hard way. After having negotiated some tight rickshaw traffic & other vehicles he took us to our destination, the Karims restaurant in Old Delhi. We gave him a bit more than what he had asked for. When we told him, he could keep the change, he smiled & mumbled a thanks. That is when I realized the amount of sweat on his face.

What an irony life is isn’t it? Here we are young, healthy individuals who can walk but wouldn’t because we are tired and there is this old man, old enough to be resting at home, ready to take you in his rickshaw. Some of us ride cycles as a health or environment friendly fad & some others ride it to earn their bread & butter.


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