The Rickshaw: A Microcosm Of Modern India

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Auto Rickshaws, Mumbai
Auto Rickshawwala, Mumbai
Auto Rickshawwala, Mumbai

Yesterday, a bus ran over my phone.

When you are 6’2”, one of life’s most pressing concerns is how to get comfortable in the backseat of an auto rickshaw. Do you fold up, spread out, or hit your head? It’s situational. If you’re in spread mode (a common favourite) stretch impeders (wallets, cigarettes, mobile phone) nestle on lap or on seat.

At 8 in the evening on Andheri’s Link Road, my rickshaw hit a pothole so abyssal that my phone leapt out off my lap, out the “door”, and into the middle of the street. I jumped out and searched frantically, spotting it and the bus, simultaneously.

As I watched that bus – unstoppable as evolution – mow down on me, I marveled at the odds of my phone physically leaping out of my lap from a moving vehicle. Then I jumped out of the way — the boy who lived.

For that split second though, between “how in the hell can you not be able to stay on top of potholes caused by rain erosion? We live in a climate with a monsoon season, like, every year and the BMC makes it sound like three solid months of torrential rain came as a fucking surprise” and “You poor fool. This is India”, I was sad.

I was sad because I knew two things: that I’d just gone through my 5th phone in 6 months, and that Mumbai would never, ever get better. That India would be a third world country long after Brazil, Russia, and China are firmly established as global leaders. There’s a pygmy tribe, deep in the South American Amazon, as yet untouched by civilization, which will emerge as a world power before India does.

Auto Rickshaws, Mumbai
Auto Rickshaws, Mumbai

It’s 2012, and we still have rickshaws in Mumbai.

And we could never get rid of rickshaws, could we? Never ever. Phasing out rickshaws would mean bringing taxis to the suburbs, and bringing taxis into the suburbs would mean change.

Change like widening roads, for a start. I remember the BMC wanting to widen one of the more arterial warrens in Bandra, and meeting heavy resistance from Catholic protests against uprooting a Cross to aid the effort. I was raised Catholic, and so embarrassed by association.

Change like better roads. Simply retouching substandard surfaces wouldn’t cut it. That, of course, would mean an end to corruption (naturally). In my little Utopia, funds earmarked for the roads would all have to go to the roads.

Infrastructure! Sanitation! Standardisation! World Domination!  There’s no end to what we could do, if we got rid of the rickshaw. I want a tiny little auto rickshaw silhouette to replace the Ashok Chakra at the center of our flag.

I am going on a hunger strike until someone shops this for me.

**DISCLAIMER:** Most of this is tongue-in-cheek, because I consider myself funny. Of course it’s much bigger than the cheese-with-that rhetoric, mine, theirs, or yours. Corruption and population are to-may-to versus to-mah-to; left versus right, old versus young, my god or your god, my house or yours. Housing and hunger and daughters and dowry and death. There are plenty of peeves to go around, and there will always be rickshaws.

Post By Alan DeMello, Guest Writer (1 Posts)

misrepresented, misinterpreted and misfit.

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Alan DeMello, Guest Writer

Alan DeMello, Guest Writer
misrepresented, misinterpreted and misfit.