A very hard afternoon shower in Bharatpur’s Keoladeo National Park had left roads soaked. At one end of the road you could see a single rickshaw coming. Local investment in tourism takes many forms in this area. The most visible are probably the many hotels which line the approach to the main gates of the sanctuary. But another wonderful form of investment are these rickshaws. Many national parks have cars with trained guides. Here they are replaced by rickshaws. The people driving them are trained naturalists. The best have wide knowledge not only of birds, but also the trees and herbs in this area. They are also enormously curious if they find that you know something better than them, and try to gain as much out of conversations as they can. You could hire bicycles to ride into the sanctuary, but it is good to take the rickshaws at least once. Not only do you support the local economy, you also get to spend a long time talking to a local. That’s always something I look forward to when I travel.
On my way into Madurai I looked out of the car and saw the perfect subject for today’s post. A single door was trundling along the road on the back of a rickshaw. Driving a rickshaw needs a bit of skill, since the pedals are harder than a bicycle, and you really need to push down on them. The hardest part is to start. After it is going, on a level road inertia is a bit of help, and you spend less effort than in starting. By the looks of it, this man wants to give the rickshaw a running start.
The highway to Dibrugarh passed through the small town of Moranhat where we were planning to stop for breakfast. In the little towns of the eastern states, cycle rickshaws are still the main mode of transport. I wasn’t surprised by them, but by the artwork each of them sported. I was itching to jump off the car and take photos.
I had my chance when we stopped for breakfast. I stood by the road and tried to photograph each rickshaw which went past. This was naive art, some better than others, but each made a statement. I loved the rural bias in the pictures, but was happy to see the one modern theme as well. I’d last seen these kinds of rickshaws in Tripura. Rickshaw art must be a genre in all of the north-east.