India is growing, its economy is well-stabilized, infrastructure is improving, income levels are raising and the whole world wants to invest in this country. My journey from Kanpur (my birthplace) to Delhi and to Bangalore, have seen immense change in terms of city infrastructure, especially transport.
In Kanpur and other two-tier metros, roads are as slim as the footpaths.Four-lane roads are rarely seen, that to in the very outskirts. Smaller Mahanagar Buses, are as full as a popcorn pack, where men and women are popping out of doors. Moreover, in buses, more likely are the chances of pickpocketing and eve-teasing (Kanpur boasts of it). To add to it, you could never ever find a seat to sit even in your wildest dreams. Thus “Sharing Autos” (Vikram) are prominent mode of transport as they are cheap (literally), quick (just see them driving), and safer (you have to experience that). But, for small distances, these cities still depends on “Cycle-Rickshaws”. I assume, whole of North-India depends on them.
According to Calvin Trillin of National Geographic, “Most rickshaws serve people “just a notch above poor” who tend to travel short distances. He added that some people use rickshaws as “24 hour ambulance services,” as escorts for shoppers, and as a way for businesses to transport goods. Trillin added that children enrolled in schools were the “steadiest” customers. Many middle class families contract with rickshaw pullers to transport their children; a rickshaw puller who transports children becomes a “family retainer.”“
The best part about cycle-rickshaws is that, it makes a common man feel as if he is “The King of the Road”. Yes, they are damn slow, but its like a elephant-ride of King, who sits alone, and rules the road as well the driver. Moreover they are eco-friendly and cheap. Yes, it doesn’t save you completely from the heat of summers and rains. But friends, drenching yourself in rain while travelling, is an experience. Rickshaws are the best-friends of people living in smaller cities.
No matter, how thin a lane is.
No matter, how rough a road is.
Rickshaw would take you there!
But, with times, the cycle-rickshaws are reducing in numbers. And I always felt that future generations would never be able to live this experience. Rickshaws are losing the race with times. In more developed cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, rickshaws are even banned. Reason, their slow pace affects traffic and it involves excess physical labor.
Whenever I get an opportunity, I don’t miss a chance to grab a rickshaw ride. It reminds me of my childhood days.
I wish if we could have done anything to save this eco-friendly transport from extinction.