Shuvo shokal from Dhaka,
We have taken delivery of our new rickshaw and the paint job is superb. There’s Linda standing alongside the rear of the new rickshaw.
Kalam is the rickshaw walla who proudly pedals a little slice of Australia around the streets of Banani, Baridhara and Basundhara (three contiguous suburbs of Dhaka). For the first time in his life, Kalam is pocketing every taka of his fares whereas hitherto he had to shell out 120 taka per day for the rental cost of a rickshaw which was owned by a company. (On a slow day the rental cost could feasibly exceed the total takings.) Kalam’s life is set for a momentous boost. Needless to say, he is grateful for the opportunity.
Our rickshaw stands out from the rest, not merely because it is new and clean. We have opted for a spot of product differentiation – apart from the images of Uluru, kangaroos and Opera House. Our rickshaw has lights on front and back (not the usual) and . . . wait for it . . . flashing coloured lights that are visible from a great distance at night (unique in Dhaka). The lighting is principally for safety rather than illumination of the road surface. We are hoping Kalam is collecting plenty of fares and savouring the ability to keep it. (He also needs to pay 500 taka per month for both registration and overnight storage and we have offered to foot the bill as long as we are here. If everything works out well, we will bequeath the rickshaw to Kalam when we depart Dhaka in a few years.
“shoulder to shoulder”
When the government in 2006 sought to reduce the congestion on the roads and cut the number of rickshaws from 800 000 to 400 000 (give or take) there was a public protest. I’ve done a bit of reading on the topic, since we now have some equity in the market, and discovered that the business people stood “shoulder to shoulder” (not literally) with the rickshaw wallas to protest the decision.
Was it because they valued the cultural element of the rickshaws? Was it because they used the transport often enough to worry about the curtailment of services? Was it because they wanted to help the rickshaw wallas maintain an income? It turns out, most of them were the company owners who stood to lose their easy revenue (from the rental fees). It seems the ugly side of the capitalist system is present everywhere; it just goes under different guises. The correlation only served to reiterate our pleasure in doing some good for Kalam and his family.