Rickshaw Confessions — From a Driver in Mumbai
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
I usually start my day around 9 in the morning and drive until 6 at night. We rent the rickshaws on a shift basis. If I refuse a ride around 5:45 p.m., some passengers will get very angry. But if I don’t return the rickshaw on time, I have to pay a huge fine — and I don’t make more than a few hundred rupees a day anyway.
I’ve been driving a rickshaw in Mumbai for over 10 years now. One of my brothers moved here first and told me to come. I don’t know exactly how old I am, but I’d say I’m about 40. I was born at home in my village and we didn’t document these things then. I only think about it in Mumbai because people here always ask you your age. I don’t really need to know. Not knowing my age keeps me younger.
People get so confused about the idea of renting a rickshaw. I don’t know why. It’s the same idea as renting a car and using it as a taxi. You pay to rent it for the day and then you pay for petrol and then whatever you earn, you earn.
I also like to finish by 6 because I like to get home to my children. They are both going to school but they don’t like it. My wife and I tell them they have to keep studying, but the truth is, I didn’t study and I love my job. Even if I were educated, I would want to drive a rickshaw.
My only complaint is that during the night shift, sometimes you get people who are very drunk, and I don’t like that. They treat you very badly. That’s another reason I work only the day shift. During the day people are generally nicer, happier, friendlier and definitely less angry.
People have a hard time believing it, but I meet such interesting people from all over India. What other job would allow that? Everyone comes to Mumbai with big dreams. When I’m driving on the stretch near the beach in Juhu (a suburb of Mumbai), the passengers and I feel equal — like we are all here to follow our dreams. Mumbai makes it possible to have hope. I love this city. I could never return to my village now.
I live quite close to where the owner parks the rickshaws, so I usually walk to collect it. If I’m running late, I’ll take a rickshaw — but somehow that doesn’t feel right to me.