Field Note: Transportation
A small tidbit first:
I wake up in the morning and realize that my alarm hasn’t gone off. I’ve only got twenty minutes to get ready and head to school. I jump out of bed, throw on some clothes, get a quick bite to eat on the road, and make my way toward the street to hail a rickshaw. I need a rickshaw that will get me to school in fifteen minutes flat. Do I get there in time? Without fail, I’ve got two minutes to spare. I tip my tuk-tuk driver and thank him in relief. How absolutely convenient a rickshaw ride can be.
How did I feel when I tried this way of getting around?
When I first rode a rickshaw it was quite dizzying yet exhilarating. Back home I drive my own car so having someone drive me wherever I needed to go was really convenient and wonderful. It was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning having to haggle for the rate of a ride but I became firmer when I realized they would charge me more because I was a foreigner. Although it translated to a couple of cents in dollars, it was more about the principle of having to pay more than average and I couldn’t accept that.
How does where we live affect how we live?
In Bangalore, India you don’t really need a car. What I’ve found is that I can get around by bus, train, or auto rickshaw. Rickshaw though, is the main mode of transportation that I use. Every day I use a rickshaw to go to school, the grocery store, anywhere! The ease of which I can transport myself around the city has really affected the way I plan things. I definitely go out more often since the cost of a rickshaw is so low. On average, I spend about 3 dollars per day, and that’s maximum! I see much more of the city in a quick fashion and I don’t usually worry about getting lost since drivers are usually knowledgeable about the area.
Is this way of getting around connected to the culture and environment? How?
In the morning I wake up to the sounds of rickshaw drivers passing by. It’s a sound that is very specific to India. Rickshaws seem to be a part of Indian life, if a person needs to get somewhere fast and cheap, a rickshaw is the way to go. Across many cities in India you can find rickshaws, they are definitely available regionally. I see many kids on my campus arrive by rickshaw and sometimes even faculty members use them as well—although personal motorcycles are preferred among the adults on campus. I’ve noticed that most transportation is through small vehicles and it’s quite rare (besides buses) to have larger forms of transit. It reflects the culture and environment very much, with many metropolitan areas being crowded, smaller modes of getting around is much more convenient. It can be quite humorous to see a whole family piled into a rickshaw but it’s a scene that I’ve come across often. It’s usually recommended that passengers negotiate or haggle the rate before the trip begins (which I do every time knowing that they overcharge foreigners). Most modern rickshaws are environmentally friendly in comparison to gasoline and run on diesel fuel or compressed natural gas (CNG).