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07:11 PM
31 July 2009
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Ho ye rickshaw!

Posted By joseph

Harry’s post inspired me to think of the oldest vehicles I’ve been on/in. Sadly, I do not have photos of my granddad’s 1981 Holden Commodore, or even his Maruti SS80DX classic 800. So I decided to look back at some of the most ancient transport still alive on Indian roads.

From the 18 odd years I spent in Hyderabad from being a wee little Joseph Radhik to my engineering days, I remember travelling by rickshaws only during my early schooldays. We are talking, 3rd standard classes here! Those were the days when around 8 of us kids used to pile up in that space - 4 of us in the seat, 3 in the “back-seat” behind the rick and 1 hanging from somewhere. The ride from school to the house always seemed much longer and eventful then do the rides to office now - I live only 500metres from my office and I reckon my school wasn’t farther way back then.

But still, it was always the thing to do. Sometime during those years, rickshaws got banned from Hyderabad and we got used to go around in the cool auto-rickshaws which pretty much become a part n parcel of our lives till the “Old Trusty” came along.

Old Trusty (2001 Tata Indica) - this is a story for another time

It wasn’t until the summer of 2006 that I came across another rickshaw - and how! I was posted in Delhi n NCR for a couple of months and I was re-introduced to the rickety heaven I’d been missing for so many years. Luckily, Gurgaon had smooth roads so other than the painfully slow speed of travel and the fact that I’d always cringe at the poor puller’s work and swear I’d lose weight, it was quite good; considering it was the only means of public transport. From then, I travelled to Kolkata, Vijayawada, rural Maharasthra, rural Punjab and U.P; places where this is the common means of transport.

Hand-pulled rickshaws in Kolkata - the most cruel kind!

A rickshaw puller chills out in the shade, near Phagwara railway station - Punjab

My chest muscles were exercised and my ability to control my bowel movements was enhanced through every ride in U.P’s horribly maintained roads. My friends, colleagues, boss and team quickly adapted to my new way of speaking on the cellphone - it sounded eerily similar to a human being grinded in big cement mixture and talking at the same time.

But now, I find myself back in places where the trusty rickshaw puller has been made extinct by modern autowallahs. And no, I do not miss them, though I do miss the many many stories that they told me on my long rides through the backlanes they loved taking shortcuts through.

And of course, my current mode of transport is nowhere close to a rick. smile


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Fresh out of college, we were thrown into the dust bowls of U.P and the jungles of M.P. Sneaky trainees that we were, we took full advantage of the available resources to explore. Whether the pine trees of Almora or the ruins of Khajuraho, a Bhojpuri film shoot or some gun-laden, mustachioed dudes in the Chambal areas of Bhind - our travels always had added flavor!


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