Of Rickshaws, Among Other Things.

My accounts class gets over at around 8.30 am in the morning, after which I usually take a stroll through the little bylanes of Mus uri Subr...

My accounts class gets over at around 8.30 am in the morning, after which I usually take a stroll through the little bylanes of Musuri Subramanian street, pass the Luz Church before I finally stumble onto the main road to catch an auto. A couple of days back, I happened to chance upon a rickshaw parked at the end of the little lane.

A rickshaw.
I hadn't seen a rickshaw in the city for quite a few years, and well, I took a little bit of time seeing the vehicle.

Rickshaws bring a lot of memories. I used to come back home from school in my kindergarten days on a rick, along w
ith a couple of other kids who were in the same neighborhood. The rickshaw wallah, with his big mustache and blue lungi would religiously be at the school gates at 2.40 pm sharp to pick us up. He would then take our bags and deposit them with a thud on the rickshaw floor after which he'd ask "Kalambalaama?" (shall we start?) and then we'd answer "Aama!" (yes!) in chorus.

The pace of the rickshaw was something that I loved. Relaxed, almost nonchalant. It represented Chennai at one point of time. There was just no hurry, no pre
ssure, no frenzied honking. The world moved at the same pace as the rickshaw did. The rickshaw rides back home from school enabled me to make so many friends in and around the neighborhood who shared the rick. Today though, I am not able to remember a single name, a single face. All I remember is playing "Uma Joshi Yay Yay Yay" as we slowly passed the huge trees that were once all over GN Chetty road on the way home. Sometimes, the rickshaw wallah would sing "Vaadhiyaar paatu" (songs from MGR movies) as he pedalled, which always left us in giggles.

Although I don't remember his name, I do remember the fact that his 3 wheeled vehicl
e was the apple of his eye. The rick was always shiny, and sported a kunkuma pottu and malli-poo every Friday and whenever a "bad boy" would jump on to the rick, he would give the boy a knock on his head for doing so. Sometimes I wondered if his rickshaw had a name, like in the movies. It didn't. But it was a little something more than just a source of income for him. Appa got the second car when I was in my 2nd standard. Naturally, the rick ride back home was no longer required. But the rickshaw wallah prevailed, he would always be at the gates at 2.40 pm. He'd acknowledge my presence by giving me a wry smile from time to time, and would ask "Ennama Lavuniya, car innum varla?" (Hasn't your car come yet?). It was almost as if I had betrayed him by not travelling in his rickshaw anymore.
I didn't understand his problems then. Autos were gaining popularity among the Anxious-PSBB-parent since they were quicker and safer (or so they thought) and the batches were just getting more prosperous by the year. Almost everyone had their own vehicle. The faithful rickshaw was losing popularity, which meant that its owners were losing business, thus explaining the look on his face. Like I said before, this was much too much for a 2nd standard kid to figure out so I took the easy way out and thought him to be a "stupid goose" being so mean.

















A few years down the line, he too inevitably converted to the zippy auto, in fact, he was the last of the lot to do so. But I knew for a fact that he wasn't very happy about it, it was not out of choice, hell, he didn't even have a choice. For me, that was the year the rickshaw died. The traffic issues that were cropping up in the city didn't exactly help save the rickshaws either. There was no provision for leisurely pedalling among the speeding bikes and cars. Chennai had moved on, and the rickshaw was left behind. 

I loved the rickshaw for a lot of reasons although my grandmother told me that I had a "gandam" (bad luck) where they were concerned (I had a major accident when I fell off from one of them when I was 9. Surgery, hospitalization, the works).

"Innaama, sawaari venuma?"
(Do you need a ride?)
The rick driver brought me back to 2008.
"Illa, rickshaw laam paathu romba naal aachu, adhaan paakaren"
(Not really, I'm just looking, Its just that it's been a long time since I saw a rickshaw)
"Aama ma, eggumore moosiyum-la vekka vendidhu...rickshaw laam pozhappe illa ma...na vandhu meyyin-a Auto ottaren."

(Yes ma, this should be kept in the Egmore Musuem..driving rickshaw is not a livelihood...My main job is actually driving an auto)
More small talk revealed that he was holding on to the rick for "suntimend"and was nice enough to oblige when I told him I wanted to take a picture of his rickshaw.

As I walked further down the road after telling him my thanks, I realized that sometimes, certain changes are inevitable, and even if we don't really like them, we can't stop it from happening anyway. Even if the rickshaw is redundant on the streets of Chennai today, it will always be part of Madras, the Madras I grew up in, the Madras I loved.



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39 comments

  1. Nice post!
    I used to go in Rickshaw when I was very very little in Pondicherry. I remember singing songs with the little friends in the rickshaw too.

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  2. Bravo! You have shades to your personality that I could never even imagine existed.

    The last line was so beautiful. Seriousl. Good work!

    -OK

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  3. @sk
    Yea, singing in the rickshaw was a favourite pastime. Although we mainly stuck to nonsense rhymes and the songs they taught us in the "Indian Music" class in school. It drew our driver crazy, so he'd retaliae by singing 'naan aanai itaal, adhu nadandhu vitaal'. lol!

    @ok
    *collar uppings*
    Enoda character-ey purinjukalaye nee....:P
    But seriously, thanks! that was super sweet of you. Bengali sweet-sweet.
    :)

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  4. Very well written.

    Interestingly, though it is disappearing from the third world, the rickshaw is alive and well in London & Amsterdam, where they are trying to promote it as an alternative to taxi cabs to travel short distances on busy streets that cars aren't allowed on. Of course, a short ride costs an arm and a leg, considering the high cost of labor in the West & the virtual monopoly rickshaws have on certain routes.

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  5. i used to go by rickshaw during skool days and we used to have fun singing songs esp on the last day of our annual exams..

    P.S : Me too a Chennai-ite...ashok nagar resident... the locality of that picture looks familiar... u a resident of T.Nagar or West Mambalam???..

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  6. If Bernard Shaw had a son named Ricky,would they call him "Rick Shaw" ????

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  7. Lol@ the above..

    Anyway, I have a lot of rickshaw memories too...When i used to come down on vacations to india, we used to alwasys make it a point to go by rickshaws cuz i just loveeddd it...i used to always bless those rickshaw mamas for being able to carry my chubby self without cribbing... :)

    I miss them...2 months back me and my sis got onto one near luz corner and got bak home...he chagred us the same amount as an auto but then it was sooo mucha fun to just be on it...

    such a senti post from the spicy gurl...Character change aa?? ;)

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  8. Super post ma!

    I've suthified around West Mambalam in a rickshaw! And I've gone to KKN too in a rick and auto. Adhulan orru kaalam!

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  9. @idling
    thanks! and ricks in London? That's something you don't hear about every day

    @Rajesh
    If I were from west mambalam, I would be writing about the Thayir Vadai in Bhagya or soemthing. But I'm not.
    This is T.Nagar chutney. PSBB Main vera. Hep, machi, hep!
    :D

    @balaji
    uiyo mokka!

    @preeti
    this pic was taken of a rick in luz! lol, you musta taken this rickshaw most prolly. :D Isn't it an atrociously small world?

    @Adithya
    Nyaabagam varude...lol! :)

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  10. neeyun bagya fan ah??? Have the paneer manchurian, fried rice and samosa channa!!

    Me a Bagya regular. Parallel street only aaham. And guess who my regular Bagya date was? ;) ;)

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  11. Lol, i know. Vaas can practically live there if she can. :D

    And thank you for the suggestion, i will defntly try ! :)

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  12. Naanga PSBB KKN...gethu maaa :)

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  13. The small kids had to sit on the kutty 'seat' in front of the 'big' kids, which was the most fun part!

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  14. used to love them! i actually took one in parrys about a year ago..its quite sad to watch them ride that thing in the heat though...

    oh god..can you believe that a friend and me actually played oo ma joshi, the other day..

    oo ma joshi, yay yay yay
    my mother she told me a sixty years ago,
    there came an old man knocking at the door..
    with an ooh, aah, i want some par...

    what is 'par' anyway?? or wait was it 'power??
    lol

    good times!

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  15. very nostalgic post chutney madam.. hmm used to go to shcool in a rickshaw till 4th std... appram cycle,school bus,my own TVS champ , scooty :)..never went to school in an auto- my dad doesn't trust them.

    The rickshaw anna who used to take me to school from kg to 4th- still stops by my parents home to ask of me and sis... good times..

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  16. @rajesh
    Gethth a? KKN was local localler locallest. :P :P
    Btw, I know one super porikki from your school. :D

    @ne
    :) good times, good times!

    @lemonade
    the pa is sweet
    i want some meat
    the meat is tough
    i wanna go by bus
    the bus is full
    i wanna go by bull
    the bull is fat
    i want my money back
    the money is green
    i want cherry bean
    the cherry bean is red
    i want to go to bed
    the bed is yellow
    yellow yellow derrty fellow sitting on a buffalo!
    :D
    lol!! I love it!

    @daisy
    :D

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  17. I know many Porikeees from your skool too....commerce students are the localllest... :D :D

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  18. "Today though, I am not able to remember a single name, a single face." - If I hadn't been reading you for a while, I would have said you're 70 years old. :p

    Seriously though, very well written. Proves that nostalgia has no minimum age of entry.

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  19. lovely post!:) rickshaws got that nostalgia about them. been on one when i was like...in 2nd grade, near parthasarthy temple if memory serves me right. apparently, one can take an expensive ride on it along the board walk in Atlantic City! :D

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  20. that was a really good one!

    Rickshaws always bring back lovely memories!

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  21. hmm.. interesting.. not quite a totally spoilt brat now are you.. not "hep" enough to not spare a thought on the general makkal of the city i see.. izze goot..

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  22. so sweetly written.. rickshaw nostalgia.
    Was going to ask u to complete Uma Joshi.. I've totally forgotten it.. and I see here that u've already written yay! :-D

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  23. comment-kkey comment a? Romba kozhuppu you have. :P

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  24. Rickshaw not nostalgia for we poor Jodhpur studying paavapatta janmams.Facts of life.

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  25. super post.even i have travelled by rikshaw to my fathima convent skool.ofcourse only till 5th std.after that i felt ive grown up and refused to go in that.a prestige issue naturally at that age.find out who iam

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  26. nice post, i guess we all have rick memories. sadly kids these days dont....

    times are changin, but we aren't any happier....

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  27. hahahahahahahahaha!! gud der!!! almost forgot how the rick looks!! one has to go all the way to parrys to find one of thee nowadays!

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  28. madras it is!

    and i was in delhi recently and where i was, i saw them, and made it a point to travel on them everyday, and always pay twice the fair demanded :)

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  29. Good wisdom in the ending. I used to love the rickshaws in those days. You can run faster than them when they are fully loaded with bags hanging around from the outside. Auto being safer should have been a Mythbuster episode!

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  30. This post took me back to my primary schooling days when I took rickshaw for 4/5 years. Nice post and yes, In Hyderabad too we rarely see any rick's now except for few goods carriers here and there.

    My mom reminds me this story every time the discussion comes up "It seems that I used to get angry that my dad was not a rickshaw puller. The reason was, our rickshaw driver 'Narsiah's' son 'Yadiah' was studying with me in my class only and he obviously gets picked first from home." So my problem was if my dad was a rickshaw puller instead of a lawyer I would also have the first pick up everyday :-)....

    Funny....

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  31. Hi

    "Even if the rickshaw is redundant on the streets of Chennai today, it will always be part of Madras, the Madras I grew up in, the Madras I loved."

    How did you structure this sentence? What was your thought process? How much time did it take to write this particular sentence? Was it free flow or lot of thinking involved?

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  32. gave me goose pimples, had the same effect that one of these forwards that talk about oliyum oliyum or DD soga music or dekh bhai dekh !

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  33. reading this choked my throat for a few moments.
    change is the only constant thing in the world. so i moved on but it still tingles those memories buried deep.

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  34. reading this choked my throat for a few moments.
    change is the only constant thing in the world. so i moved on but it still tingles those memories buried deep.

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  35. Rickshaw not nostalgia for we poor Jodhpur studying paavapatta janmams.Facts of life.

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  36. lovely post!:) rickshaws got that nostalgia about them. been on one when i was like...in 2nd grade, near parthasarthy temple if memory serves me right. apparently, one can take an expensive ride on it along the board walk in Atlantic City! :D

    ReplyDelete

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