ode to the rickshaw

Source: http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~amyswu/pics/pakistan/110_1034.JPG

Ok, so maybe it’s not a creature that can only be found in Lahore, but the city leaves its stain on this remarkable lifeform like it does on everything else.

The first thing that you notice about Lahori rickshaws is that they’re CLOSED. They have two thin plastic flappy doors that swing close when you jump into them, cocooning you away from the world outside. Reminds me a lot of a doli (except that I couldn’t find any pictures of them with curtains, so you have to imagine curtains across the openings in the picture). (Yes, THAT contraption is for people to sit inside and be transported across short distances by other people :/) Wandering from the point though. Back to rickshaws – there are two wonderful things about them:

1. If you’re inside one, then it can magically twist and turn and nose its way into the smallest of squeezable places through traffic. Much entertaining in an excitingly my-life-is-just-so-colourful-and-risky kind of way.

2. If you’re outside one, and inside another vehicle on the road somewhere near a rickshaw, then atleast rickshaws in this city keep to the extreme left lane out of sheer consideration for your speed needs.


There’re no meters in Lahori rickshaws. You have to haggle and settle on an amount of money before you get into one. Once securely in, you’re free to look around at the overstuffed, shiny plastic interior, the back of the rickshaw driver’s head framed by a heart-shaped thick steel grill, and the tiny patch of people-and-cars-and-sky that you can sneak in through the sides.

On a slightly disturbing note – since girls tend to hesitate travelling alone sometimes in rickshaws, and tend to get nervous about it, my friend k and I once thought about possible ways of escaping from one if need be. We came up with a grand total of one: throwing a dupatta from behind over the rickshaw driver’s head much like a noose in an attempt to threaten to strangle him. Except that it *might* not work very well if the aforementioned heart shaped thick steel grill was firmly in place. Any more suggestions are welcome. I do sincerely hope no rickshaw drivers are reading this here post.

Also, much like truck art, rickshaws have verses and random phrases in urdu and sometimes other languages inscribed on their backs. Check out the rickshaw blog :) (It’s in Urdu though :/)

6 Comments so far

  1. misha (unregistered) on July 9th, 2005 @ 2:33 pm

    For the sake of morbidity, I contemplated means to escape a speeding Rickshaw once as well. In Karachi, the Rickshaws are much like the photos above, with no little doors in the sides, which leads to a more “open” travelling experience and none of the grills that you mentioned. This would mean that theoretically one could leap out at any time of a moving Rickshaw, provided you have the sense to not leap out into the side which would result in you actually leaping out into speeding traffic.

    Great post, though. It’s about time the Rickshaws got their share of glory. :)

  2. Hajrah (unregistered) on July 10th, 2005 @ 12:49 am

    Although I haven’t travelled much at all and have been rooted in Lahore like since forever – I can safely say that whenever you’re coming back from ANY place in the world – the first sign (read ‘sound’ or ‘sputter’) of familiarity is that of the rickshaw. and the heart shaped grill and the weird mirrors that are just spying on you from every nook and corner and the extremely creative way the rickshaw wala aligns his foot… yar I mean it’s like a whole new world.

    and oh plz – do NOT miss the extremely profound poetry thats written on the rickshaw’s rear end… and the symbolic illustrations to substantiate it :P “dekh magar pyar se.” and “maan ki dua, jannat ki hawa.” and the like… very insightful.

  3. Mina (unregistered) on July 10th, 2005 @ 1:28 am

    read on back of ricksha:

    “press: anti craption”

    the one moment i would have given a foot for a camera ;)

  4. mina (unregistered) on July 10th, 2005 @ 1:36 am

    ps: love the rearview view, layered images :)

  5. Yasir (unregistered) on July 10th, 2005 @ 7:01 am

    And don’t forget the harmony in the environment they inject. Air pollution, voice pollution. Should I say ‘traffic pollution’ too? And their silencer, ah they suck; they shouldn’t even call it a silencer instead woofer. Don’t get me wrong, I hate rickshaws! I’ve just been hit by a rickshaw driver in the middle of Anarkali last night. I was standing near a stall and he bumped the rearview mirror into my back. *bam* *whack* @#%#$#! This is my 3rd rickshaw hit of the season. Donno if they are after me for some weird reason only known to God or these rickshaw-wallas. Listen, I’m not complaining, I just hate them.

    On a serious note, I heard that Government is introducing new breed of environment-friendly-rickshaws made in India. Never thought there was any! :P Anyway, they gotta take these beasts back somehow.

  6. zayn (unregistered) on July 12th, 2005 @ 12:59 am

    i’m an american who lived in lahore for a while–i loved lahore–and i really dig your pics…

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