In addition to cars, public transit and motorcycles, the streets of India are packed with autorickshaws. In Mother Pious Lady: Making Sense of Everyday India, the book’s author, Santosh Desai, describes the autorickshaw as a vehicle that captures the nature of the Indian way of life in that the people are not too poor to not have choices and not so affluent that it takes life for granted.
These autorickshaws are a modern alternative to the traditional bicycle rickshaws that we’ve all seen cruising down the streets of any downtown area in the States.
In Ahmedabad, we had the opportunity to take an autorickshaw from the Jama Masjid mosque back to our tour coach. As you can see from the video, my experience on an autorickshaw was just that … an experience. It was almost as if the autorickshaw was just another pedestrian weaving through crowded walkways barely missing the toes of passers-by. The only thing that set us apart from those who traveled by foot was speed. Our MPK fluctuated drastically depending how daring the autorickshaw driver felt when he encountered a narrow opening between foot traffic, another autorickshaw or a larger car. While some of our group members tightly gripped the back of the driver’s seat, I found the experience to be exhilarating.
Autorickshaws remain a relevant and important resource to the consumer class in India. From the businessman to a housewife running her errands, the autorickshaw is weaved into the fabric of the Indian way by giving everyone the opportunity to actively participate in a burgeoning economy. Though the autorickshaw is discrete in nature compared to the other vehicles that share the Indian roadways, they are quintessentially Indian. Affordable. Accessible. Hectic. Colorful. Dutiful. The autorickshaw is a microcosm of a country on the precipice of greatness.