The story of the rickshaw puller is not something that is new to any one of us. Over a long period of time the rickshawwallah as we all call him has not changed a wee bit. This not so lonely stranger is visible in every nook and crany of the city from where he happily gives people a ride to their respective destinations.
Rickshaws have seen the Independence movement,its seen several revolutions and even today in an era where shuttle trains and the metro rail are becoming popular modes of transport, rickshaws are still very much prevalent in the big and small cities alike.It would be wrong to say that the rickshaw wallah in todays times has lost ground because he is very much a part of the usual bandwagon thanks to the affordability factor and secondly convenience which may not be the case with the others.
Meanwhile the latest trend is the erickshaws. Talking in terms of the rickshaw in the Indian context it has become more of a cultural symbol and when people come on a visit to the country from far off lands they make it a point to take a rickshaw ride at least once to make sure they have enjoyed a ride on the desi vahan. Living it up in the true desi style is what a rickshaw journey is all about and I strongly believe that there is nothing better than the rickshaw that can connect us to our roots and give us a fine taste of Indianness.
Rickshaws are a tourist attraction not only in the Indian subcontinent but also in the Asakusa region of Tokyo; in the main temple area of Kyoto; in tourist heavy areas of Kamakura; on Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong; in Vietnam on CijinIsland in Kaohsiung; in areas of London’s Chinatown, Ottawa’s Byward Market; in downtown Toronto; in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam). Also in the centre of Durban, South Africa, they are a common sight. Rickshaws are of three kinds one of them is the type that is pulled by the hand(Runner pulled rickshaw) which is still very common in the bylanes of Calcutta,second one is the type that is common in most parts of India and abroad i.e the cycle rickshaw with three wheels and it works like a big tricycle.
Last one is the easiest to handle in Indian conditions and it is the auto rickshaw.However this blog is dedicated to the rickywallahs purely and not the autorickshaw fellows.The rickshaw to be precise originates from Japan which was seen there for the first time in 1868 during the Meiji Restoration. They soon became a popular mode of transportation, since they were faster than the previously used palanquins (and human labor was considerably cheaper than using horses).Runner-pulled rickshaws have mainly been replaced by cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws.
People have often wondered as in who could have possibly been the inventor of the rickshaw but there seems to be no record of this however the few names that are known are Albert Tolman, Jonathan Scobie and Izumi Yosuke.One out of these in all probability is the founder of what the world knows today as the rickshaw. The countries that saw the rise of the rickshaw as a mode of transportation were Bangladesh,China, Hongkong,Indonesia ,Ireland,Finland,Malaysia,South Africa ,Pakistan,USA, Egypt,Phillippines,Madagascar and ofcourse India.Around 1880, rickshaws appeared in India, first in Shimla and then, 20 years later, in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Here they were initially used by Chinese traders to transport goods; in 1914 the Chinese applied for permission to use rickshaws to transport passengers.
Soon after, rickshaws appeared in many big cities in SouthEast Asia; pulling a rickshaw was often the first job for peasants migrating to these cities.The fact that the rickshawwallah is held in high esteem can be proven by the number of movie adaptations,novels and songs that have been created over the years in India and abroad about the rickshaw puller. Some of the popular ones are Do Beegha Zameen where Balraj Sahni plays the rickshaw puller, the OmPuri starrer City of Joy was another very popular movie of its times and the Japanese movie Rickshaw Man by Hiroshi Inagaki are all fine examples of how the real life of the rickshaw puller has been converted to reel.
Novels of Pearl.S. Buck, Lao She are also worth a read.Eddy Howard sang a song called the Rickety Rickshaw Man.I would say at the end who you are, where you are, what you do hardly makes a difference because If you are on the rickshaw you will have the time of your life.Hence I raise a toast to the rikshawwallahs to live it up the ricky way…………..