Rickshawalas and their stories

Rickshaw is one of the various means of transportation. In some parts of the world rickshaw pulling is still a part of day-to-day lives of many, as is the case in the Terai and inner-terai regions of our country. In those flatlands, the three-wheeler pulled by human power is preferred to other modes of transport as it is cheaper and easier to access.

I learned about the rickshaw-pullers or rickshawalas after living in Chitwan for over two decades. As a regular passenger I got a chance to observe them from various angles and perspectives. Each had a different story behind getting into the job. Some pulled rickshaw as their only means of livelihood while a few took it as a part-time job. Some became rickshawala for a brief period of time to make money for certain occasions like weddings of their sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. Some had taken up the job as they failed to find any other job. For most of the rickshaw-pullers, however, it was not a matter of choice but of compulsion.

Once, I happened to meet a rickshawala who was a student of tenth grade. It was good to hear that he wanted to earn money for his education. But like most of the youths of our country, he wanted to save some money “to go to a foreign country” to find a better job. This brings to the fore the grim fact that there is acute lack of employment opportunities in the country.

At times people tend to look down upon rickshawalas. I find this a bit uncomfortable. There is nothing wrong with pulling a rikshaw. It is just like any other job people are engaged in. The notion that rickshaw-pullers are bad may be coming from people’s experience when they have to haggle over the fare. Some think rickshawalas as “expert bargainers” who seek only to force people to cough up more money in the name of “hard life and hard work.” But still, they need to be considerate about the strenuous efforts they put while taking their passengers from Point A to Point B.

Most of the rickshawalas no doubt are in this profession of earning through the use of their muscles just to make some money so that they could send their children to schools and provide better life for their families.  Today most rickshawalas have been displaced by the e-rickshaws and tempos. These new types of transportation facilities have displaced the once essential rickshaw. As a result, many of the rickshawalas have been forced to find other jobs to sustain their families.