On Rickshaws…


From today’s writing…

The Bangladeshi rickshaw is a bicycle-powered, poor-man’s chariot.

A rider perches themselves on the narrow seat that requires sitting with the most perfect of postures. The drivers, known as a wallahs, push at the pedals with their skinny legs and pull at the handles with their veined arms to get the creaking contraptions rolling. The chain runs from the bike to the wheels beneath the carriage. There are no gears. Faced with much of an incline, drivers dismount and pull their rickshaw. Lucky for them, Bangladesh is one of the flattest countries in the world.

It’s not uncommon to see families of five on one rickshaw – a Bangladeshi mini-van.

The drivers pedal in the offensive heat and humidity. They pedal through torrential down pours and the flooded streets that result.

Some of them peddle hash or women to tourists, but most of them don’t.

They show pride in their vehicles through the gold tassels and sparkling sequins they affix to the carriages’ canopy and in the paintings on the carriages’ backside.

The streets of Dhaka, the country’s capital, are drab and dusty. The rickshaws and their colorful artwork are a relief to the eye. Their tinkling bells that cut through the motorized chaos are a treat to the ear and, if viewing Dhaka from one of its taller buildings, the most prominent sound that drift to the rooftops.

The Dhaka police estimate that there are 600,000 rickshaws operating in the city.

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