Why I Love Riding in Auto-Rickshaws (and Why Many Others Don’t)
Remember how fun bumper cars were as a kid? Especially when you would sneak up on your friends from behind and then send them flying. Or, even better, when you would just barely miss a collision. That’s kind of what riding in auto-rickshaws feels like to me. Except that they can travel three times as fast, and the whole city becomes your arena.
I love riding in auto-rickshaws, but many other people don’t, and understandably so. They tend to be dirty and somewhat unreliable. They can break down (which has happened to me a handful of times), or the driver can drop you off somewhere other than where you requested to go (which has also happened to me a handful of times). The drivers are also known for trying to overcharge people, especially tourists.
But… if you’re able to look past all of that, then rickshaw rides can be absolutely exhilarating. As soon as you climb into a rickshaw, you never quite know what kind of adventure you’re in for.
Some drivers, or rickshaw-wallas, take great pride in the appearance of their vehicles. They’ll dress the rickshaws up with decals and stickers of Bollywood stars and starlettes, or Hindu deities. Some even take the time to string chains of fake flowers from their mirrors or suspend them from the ceiling of the rickshaw.
Some of the drivers, though, are just downright crazy. The first time that I visited Agra with friends, we had a rickshaw-walla who agreed to drive nine of us in a three-person rickshaw for only 50 rupees. For those of you unfamiliar with traveling in rickshaws, that is a.) an insanely low price and b.) an insanely large number of people for one little old rickshaw! There’s no way the driver could have made any money on that trip, nor could he have been comfortable with three other people squeezed into the front seat with him, and another six in the back. I’m pretty sure he agreed to do it just to prove that he could.
I’ve also encountered some really kind rickshaw-wallas who are completely fair with their prices, offer to drive me further than originally agreed upon, shoo beggars away from the car, and give other drivers directions if they’re lost.
Rickshaws and rickshaw-wallas are one of the many reasons that I love India. They make each day a little more interesting.