In the West, a four-wheeled passenger vehicle is called a car, a two-wheeled one, a motorcycle or bike. In India, they are 4-wheelers and 2-wheelers. Then of course, we have auto-rickshaws—little yellow 3-wheeled things with a 2-stroke engine and a lot of pollution. There is one more possibility, a bicycle-rickshaw. I just love these things. I rode in one when we went to Delhi in February and wished Tom had been with me for the ride. To my surprise and delight, about a week later, my friend Saam found a bicycle shop here in Bangalore that could order one for me. It was exciting and a little sub-rosa because cycle-rickshaws-for-hire are not allowed in Bangalore. You can get a kid-size one, but then, you can’t ride in it yourself. Saam and I talked about it a bit and we decided we’d each buy our husbands one. We thought it would be very easy and a lot of fun. HA!
Ordering and paying for the CR was a snap. All we had to do was hand over the money. The cycles are built to order and we were prepared to wait and wait and wait. We were so excited about the big surprise for the men, we got the giggles all the time. Saam almost spilled the beans once at dinner. We thought they’d arrive soon. We were really wrong.
In order to receive our cycles, we had to go to the police station to sign a Declaration “not for commercial use”. Saam trotted over to the police, fully expecting them to give her the license and the cycles right away. “What do you want with these rickshaws Madam? We don’t want rickshaws in Bangalore. Women can’t have a license for these things Madam. It’s too difficult.” Blah, blah, blah. She must have gone over there 10 or more times. Finally, she had her husband Parveez go over; no luck. The police wanted a huge bribe, much more than we paid for the cycles. Parveez and the police continued to argue throughout the summer.
Finally, about two weeks before our anniversary (August 9), I called Saam and told her I’d pay the bribe. I was REALLY wanting my cycle now. She trundled off to the police station one last time and this is what happened:
Saam: I want the cycle for a white foreign lady. She lives in Palm Meadows. She promises she won’t take the rickshaw out of the compound.
Policeman: Oh Madam. A foreigner, a white madam. They are a lot of trouble. You don’t want to get involved with them Madam. You keep away from those Madams. They are crazy. (Stamp, stamp, stamp on all the forms) Here you are. Go get the goods and keep those foreign women out of the police station.
Goody! Said Saam. Saam is an architect and has lots of big trucks for carting around furniture and big things, so she sent a three of her guys to Chennai in a van to pick them up. Chennai is about 100-150 miles from Bangalore. When they got there, the shop said “No, the rickshaw is not here. We make the parts. You have to go to Krishnarajahpuram”. Shoot. So Uncle drove the van back to Bangalore while Sujeet and Lalbahadoo took a bus to Krishnarajahpuram (200 km away). It was a horrible bus, they had to sit on top. When they got there, the next shop said, “Oh sorry, your rickshaw’s in Calcutta.” By now, the men had spent two whole days looking for the darn thing and now they have to go to Calcutta. Well, Sujeet bought unreserved train tickets, the only kind he could get, and set off for some po-dunk station in Calcutta. It takes 72 hours to get there. Unreserved carriages are really, really horrible. You don’t want to take one anyplace.
Finally, after a long ordeal, they reach Calcutta. They are completely lost and have no idea where to go. Fortunately, Kapeer, another man that works for Saam is from Calcutta. He just happened to be visiting his brother there. They called him, found the rickshaw, took it apart, crated it up, and got back on the train. Whew. I did not find any of this out until I went to see it at Saam’s workshop.
Here’s Kapeer driving the cycle by Saam’s factory.
Let me tell you, there was a lot of excitement in our neighborhood when the truck pulled up and let the cycle down. All the kids and drivers and maids and everyone came running. The first thing we have to do, is pooja. Babu and I bought the flowers earlier in the day.
Here’s Babu and my neighbor’s driver lighting incense. The rickshaw has a built-in incense holder and flower vases. The vases are just above the front wheel. There is an AH-OOO-GAH horn and a jolly little bell to make a lot of noise with. The green round thing and bulb near the handlebars is the horn.
Of course, we put on LOTS of flowers. Here, you can see the name and phone number of the guy who made the cycle. Just go to Calcutta, and you can have your very own.
This cycle is really lucky for its owner because it has many auspicious sayings and numbers on it. For example, “786” and “Nahim” stand for Muslim prayers. The incense burners and vases are Hindu.
The inside seat backs have Bollywood stars, the seat cushions have fruits and vegetables.
Tom was so surprised and pleased with his anniversary gift. We had such a big party. Everybody got a ride.
Please come. The Rickshaw is waiting.