Ricksha-wallah

This thing isn’t the most aerodynamic vehicles really. In fact it has this giant sail thing that must cause such a drag against the wind. I know when I’m just trying to bike against the wind I feel like it’s torture. But this dark-brown skinned man is pulling me, this contraption, and my cousin along bumpy rocky paths and weaving through traffic, uphill, downhill, missing car bumpers and open sewer lanes on the sides of the roads by inches.
It’s hard on my posterior.. but I can’t really complain.. all I have to do is sit here.. but I still complain to myself. Why can’t they get cushier seats? Maybe because it’ll just add weight and price to an already strained man.
And how old is this guy? He looks like he’s in his 70s.. but his physique is like that of an anemic 16 year old. I wonder if he competed in those bike races he could probably outrace anyone in America, then give every one of the competitors rides back to the their homes afterwards and barely break a sweat. Considering he’s taking me from one end of the town to the other for only 20 taka. Highway robbery too, that’s what my cousin said. He originally wanted 22, but my cousin brow-beat him down to 20. Brow-beat, that’s a nicer term for making someone feel like a shitty human being for asking 2 taka more then you want to pay for, for hauling you across town.
I’ll slip him an extra 10 taka when we get off, away from my cousin’s sight, or he’ll get angry and tell me to stop encouraging them to cheat others.
And maybe it is a cheat, it is capitalism at it’s purest level. and the market has set it’s price, who am I to argue against it? It’s fair.
But it’s also so unfair.
I ask him if this Ricksha is his own or if he’s renting it. It looks old and used. He says he’s renting it, what rate? 100 taka a day. So that means he has to make at least 100 to break even. That’s 5 more rides like mine from one end of town to the other. How log is the rental for? There’s two shifts, one in the day time, one at night. He says this is his last trip, it’s dusk and he has to be getting home. He has two kids. One, the oldest, is in the Madrasa. It’s the only affordable option he has to educate his children. Not much of an education really, except in learning how to read and memorize the Quran and the Hadith, the Madrasas in this country has no weight when it comes to other topics like mathematics, biology, history (outside of Islamic history). But it’s the best he can do. Maybe his son will become an Imam some day and have a better life then he has.
We come across a hill and he has to drop down and push the Ricksha. My cousin hops off and helps push, he tells me to stay in my seat. I don’t have the courage to hop off like he did anyways. The pointy rusty metallic edges of the Ricksha scares me enough to stay in my seat and hold on to those un-aerodynamic sails.
As we cruise down the hill, the wind cooling my face, I wonder about this man’s family. What will happen if he ever gets a cold? He’ll be out for at-least a day, maybe two. Will they even have enough money to buy fever-reducers? Or will they spend a taka or two on some useless Homeopathic remedy? That’s two days without any income. Lets say that on a good day he can make 100 taka profit. That’s 700 a week, 2,800 taka a month. That’s if he works every single day of his life. 2,800 taka, at 60 taka a dollar, is $47. 47 Dollars a month, I can piss that away on a dinner for two at a shitty restaurant back home in America.
Hell, I can piss away 2,800 taka away in a week of mobile minutes. I have two 500 taka notes in my pocket right now.. plus some change. I have almost half his monthly income in my pocket right now.
Maybe I’ll slip him a 20 taka note instead.
He’s talking about his son. He sounds very happy. Very proud. His son is 8 years old, doing well in school. He says that books are expensive though. I can imagine those books. I’ve had a few myself when I was going to Sunday school at the mosques. Tattered thin yellow papers. They cost maybe 10-20 taka each? That’s a fifth of his daily income. How much does a chicken cost here? Forget about fish, his family can’t afford the fish prices here anymore. When’s the last time he’s had any source of protein in his diet? I can probably pick this man up over my shoulders, he might weight maybe 130.. 140 lbs?
He wipes some sweat off his head with a Gamsa. They dont even have towels. They have a piece of thin, absorbant, colorful cloth. I can imagine his house. Tin all around, maybe some dry grass on the roof to help keep it cool. But probably still hot as sin. I can’t believe his family would even own a ceiling fan. His bed is probably some sheets over a straw mat, probably on the floor. His entire family probably sleeps together on that one straw mat at night.
Maybe I’ll slip him another 10 taka on top of the 20..
Maybe I should give him everything I have in my pocket and cry on his shoulders in gratitude for dragging my fat ass across town, smiling the entire way, thinking and talking of his children and how lucky he is..

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