It’s definitely true that living in India is an adventure. However, sometimes, it’s not an adventure in the conventional way. Many people see adventures as endless hikes on amazing mountains (checked) or trying how much spice the human body can hold (very little in my case) or getting to know a new language by being immersed in a new culture (not as easy as it sounds). My daily adventures are nevertheless better summarised as not going crazy when 10 kids shout “didi”, managing to cross the street in the middle of thousands of angry Indias who seem to be driving by some sort of unknown set of rules, and, my favourite, getting a rickshaw.
Getting a rickshaw is probably a simple task for an Indian, but I’m not -yet- Indian. I do not look like an Indian, speak Hindi or Marathi and I sometimes find the streets very scary. Let me explain how this three characteristics turn the rickshaw search into an adventure.
It is true that rickshaws have a meter and drive around town. That does not imply that they will simply turn on their meter, drive you where you ask, and in return get payed the amount the red numbers indicate. The driver decides if the place you want to go to pleases him -I have not yet seen a single female rickshaw driver- and they therefore will take you, he then decides if the meter will be used, if he is simply setting the price or if some rupees will be added to the price indicated by the meter. If you are going far they won’t take you and if you don’t exactly know where you’re going the odds are you will get lost. Looking like a foreigner makes the drivers play this amazing game called “I’m going to make you pay 10 times the price just because of how you look, and I’ll be very offended when you say no”. This doesn’t get any better given the fact that I can’t argue back in Hindi. Sometimes I argue back in Spanish because the level of understanding is the same as if I spoke English. Finally, you eventually can easily find a nice rickshaw that will take you for a decent price and that seems to understand the drop location… only it is on the other side of the street. That’s off the table too, crossing the street is very hard, scary and it could take the same amount of time to find another rickshaw.
I still love rickshaws.
After you manage to get in one (every now and then is not that complicated), you just sit there. It sometimes feels like you are driving in a bubble. This is definitely not because rickshaw drivers have a way of driving that makes you feel like you are floating. On the other hand, the adventure continues in the rickshaw. They are masters at the secret driving game played in the Indian streets, meaning that they literally change lines 3 times per second and pass everyone they want, whenever they want. The smell of engines and street food mix and pass from one side to the other, you get some time to think about life and the bumps of the road, the lights, the shouting, the crazy traffic and the horns, remind you where you are. Being in a rickshaw is like being in India: sometimes you just have to sit down, admire your surroundings, hold tight and literally appreciate that you’re still alive.