Monday, September 10, 2012

Day 1: The Day of Exploitation

With serious doubts still lingering in my mind, I left the house at 8 AM. All along the way I was contemplating if what I am about to do is right? Am I biting too much than I can probably chew?
But then I thought, every time you move out of your comfort zone, such a mental tussle is inevitable. Thankfully, I didn't take a u-turn. I parked my cycle at the Metro parking, took the Metro for Vishwavidyalaya (North Campus, Delhi University) to reach Raja Rickshaw Garage in Roop Nagar near Daulat Ram College.

Let me tell you that a rickshaw garage is a serious business, but we will come to it later (plus, I still have to know a lot more about it). After practicing the 'art' for 10-15 minutes and test riding a few rickshaws, I was assigned gaadi no. 70. yeh, thats what they call their rickshaws - gaadi! Respect!

I was now officially a rickshaw-walla, but there was a problem - I had no clue about the area. I did not know the routes and what fare to quote (I feared the under-quoting part more than over-quoting!). I sought help from a veterans and he suggested me that I rather be honest about my naivety. "Tell the customer that you will take him wherever he wants to if he knows the way and leave it to his honesty to give you appropriate fare" he advised. "8 out of 10 sawaris will be genuine and will give you right fare. However few may underpay you by Rs 5 or 10. But that shouldn't matter as you are new and after 4-5 days you will know everything," he added.

8 out of 10 wasn't bad at all. So I decided to be candid with my customers (as if I had any other choice!) and headed towards the campus. The nearest college was 'Daulat Ram' but when I reached there, I saw a mile-long queue in front of its gate. These girls colleges, I tell you, are notorious in this particular aspect. Go there at any time of the day and a train of rickshaws awaits you. I couldn't muster enough courage (and patience) to get into the line behind 20 rickshaws! So from Daulat Ram to Hindu to St. Stephens to Law faculty I was just wandering around like an incoming SMS when the phone is switched off !

Finally... Finally I got a sawari in front of Law Faculty for VC office. She was about to sit when I, very candidly, told her that she has to help me as I dont know the way. What she did? she, very dramatically, retracted her foot off my rickshaw saying that even she didn't know the way. She, my first customer, was swept off her feet and taken away by somebody else in front of my eyes and I couldn't do anything! what a pity!



  1. Came across your blog from twitter and I couldn't stop reading until I read all the post. It's engrossing to say the least and I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said it's inspiring on a lot of levels. I'm a doctor and I find it a struggle to just sit with my books all day as I prepare for my MD entrance exams which will inevitably ensure a cushy future for me while you delve into an effort a million times more difficult with no possible materialistic windfall. Hats off to you and thanks a ton for this humbling experience.
    On the rickshaw front I stopped haggling the day I realised most people don't think twice before taking out that extra Rs.5/10 for the eunuch or beggar at the traffic signal or even for a bar of chocolate or their next cigarette while a sweat drenched hardworking ricksaw wala is accused of cheating or even abused when he asks for the same.
    Did try to ride a ricksaw once when I was a little high and couldn't even keep it going straight on an empty road with only the tiny ricksaw wala sitting at the back which had little do with my state of mind and moreso with the skill level and strength required for the job.
    I'm gonna stop before my comment runs longer than the post itself.
    Looking forward to more on this. Great stuff.

    1. Apologies for my delayed reply (actually i did reply on oct 6 (which was in no way instant! :P) but i realize that it was posted as a 'comment' rather than a reply. so here i repost it again. hope u havnt considered me arrogant all this while!)

      what a pleasure to have u as a reader of my mediocre (trust me, it is!) blog. Not only u took time to read the entire blog but leave such an illustrated comment! (u really deserved that break from ur MD entrance books I guess! :P)
      people cant even walk straight when a "lil high", how can u possibly expect to ride it straight? ;)
      on a serious not...what I do has no +ve impact on a rickshaw-wallas life but a doc in his lifetime cures I-dont-know-how-many lives. Cuz my stuff dont even stand a chance in front of urs! true story.
      thanks a lot!