You CANNOT be a Bangalee and not ride a rickshaw. It’s simply NOT done. Whatever excuses you make, all are invalid.
Rickshaws are everyday stuff. One rickshaw ride is often the same as any other. But every once in a while, you have rides that stand out.
The poet, the songwriter
Possibly my most memorable experience on a rickshaw. I went to Cox’s Bazar with my friends on a school trip once. It was past 1am and we were at this store called Angel Drops. We decided to go back to the hotel since it was getting late and we were sleepy. Too tired to walk all the way back, we went looking for a rickshaw. At 1am, you don’t find a lot of rickshaws around. After a while, a rickshaw stopped in front of the shop and the passengers jumped off the rickshaw and hurriedly walked away. Obviously, something about the rickshaw wasn’t right.
We decided to risk it and gave him the name of our hotel. We agreed on a fare and we were about to get on the rickshaw when the guy recited two lines of poetry out of the blue. Curious, one of my friends asked him if he wrote it himself. The guy said, rather excitedly, that indeed he had. Then he asked us if we want to see his works. Before we could reply, he brought out this humongous diary from underneath the seat and showed it to us. It was filled with pages after pages of lyrics and poems. We got on the rickshaw, rather impressed. The man sang us song after song while paddling and occasionally stopped to chat with us. He would throw in the occasional English word here and there.
We took pictures with him before we went our separate ways. He foretold that one of my friends (who was 5′ 5”) would be a Captain in the army and I would be a magistrate. But he warned me against eating meat (gosh). It took us a while before we realised he meant bribe (ghush).
The Respectable Puller
I was going to class when I met this aged rickshaw-puller. The man spoke with an air of defiance and pride. He was being pretty reasonable about the fare so I happily got on.
Soon after he started pulling the vehicle, I realised this was a man who had seen much and been through it all. He would often slow down and nod to acknowledge the people who greeted him. And there were lots of people who stopped to ask him how he was doing. He knew these people and these people knew him. He radiated awesomeness. And I felt privileged to have ridden on his rickshaw.
I have encountered this kind lot more than once. And it’s always an awesome experience. This one rickshawala never missed a joke. I sat there and watched as he made jokes and comments about everything. Everything. Some were funny, some were not. But he did not care. He would make a joke and he would chuckle. If the people around him laughed, that was an added bonus.
Much to learn, I still have.
I could go on and on, but I’m afraid I have to press the stop button somewhere. There was one rickshawala who was definitely high. He hit a rickshaw and the two wheels got stuck. Next thing I know, the other rickshaw had toppled over.
Lastly, because it was so amazing, I’ll tell you about a rickshawala a friend of mine had encountered. She and her brother were chatting in English on the rickshaw. The rickshawala suddenly stopped and told them in perfectly good English, “You think just because I drive a rickshaw, I don’t understand English?” A rather long, awkward silence followed.