Sunday, August 30, 2009



The other night, as I watched the rickshaws pedal their passengers home, I remembered the rickshaws in India. When I came across the border from Pakistan into Amritsar, the city of the Golden temple, the most sacred shrine of the Sikhs, I was in for some unexpected culture shock.

In Pakistan the rickshaws were pulled by the skinniest horses you could ever imagine. In India, they were driven by even skinnier men. I couldn’t bring myself to ride in one for a few days. How could I ask such a puny man to haul me around, even though I was pregnant. I watched in amazement at how much strength they had and, finally, it became natural for me to ride in one. They were so eager to carry me.

After my daughter was born, I was riding in a rickshaw in Pondicherry. My husband was on his bicycle ahead of my mother-in-law and me in our carriage. I had my two month old wrapped in a blanket and was holding her tight. Suddenly, Hugh stopped to avoid crashing into another rickshaw that had halted in front of him. Our driver also stopped suddenly and I felt myself being lifted into the air on a trajectory out of the rickshaw and onto the asphalt street. I knew I had to protect my baby, so I twisted in midair and flipped around so that I would land on my back. As I did so, I held her up to avoid her coming in contact with the ground. It worked and she was unscathed. I only suffered some bruises. I was grateful for my stunt training in the theater that served us well that evening.

Rickshaws became a way of life when I was in town and didn’t have my bicycle. Seeing these vehicles in America seems like an anomaly. What are they doing here? And yet, it is a most marvelous form of transportation. I highly recommend it when one is out and about. With a good driver, it is so much fun.

Prema Rose

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