When anybody wants to go anywhere in Hyderabad, they call Cycle Rickshaw – “Are Rickshaw chalte kya?”. Remember the good old days when children used to be taken in cycle rickshaws to school, or women would go to the market and families visit relatives in this common mode of transport?
Times have changed, the Metro is here, so are school buses and school vans. But, people in some select pockets of the old city are still lucky enough to travel in the vintage cycle rickshaws.
A handful of rickshaw pullers are still ferrying children to different schools in the old city in the morning and dropping them back home in the afternoon. Mohammed Jabbar in his mid-50s is one of the few ‘passenger rickshaw drivers’ in the old city who continue with their line of work.
“I started pulling the rickshaw at least 35 years ago and still continue with it. In fact, there were not too many cars and two-wheelers on the roads then. In fact, only buses used to ply on the main roads and even auto-rickshaws were rare then,” he points out.
Today Jabbar picks up children of primary classes from their homes and drops them at a school in Etebar Chowk and Darulshifa in the morning and his cycle rickshaw reverses in the afternoon.
“Parents prefer the cycle rickshaw for small children as we drive slowly and there is little risk of the children falling down if they take a nap. Also, we ferry at the most three children and understand our responsibility. We are paid Rs.500 to Rs.600 a month per child for the service,” says Jabbar.
‘Rickshaw walas’, as they are called in local parlance, can be found on the Darulshifa-Old Malwala Palace stretch after school hours.
“In fact, there are very few rickshaw pullers who still stick to ferrying passengers. Due to low earnings, many have shifted to transporting goods and remodelled the rickshaws accordingly. It is a tiresome task and we cannot move around 24×7 like auto-rickshaw drivers,” says Ismail, who transports firewood and other goods in his rickshaw.
Khaled Bin Salam, a resident of Dabeerpura, still continues renting cycle rickshaws.
“I am a third generation member of our family. Previously my grandfather, Taleb Bin Suleman Al Kaseri, and later my father, Salam Bin Taleb Al Kaseri, maintained a fleet of rickshaws and rented them out,” he explains.
A rent of Rs.30 per day is collected from the rickshaw pullers who hire the vehicle and return it at the end of the day. On Sundays and festival days, the rickshaw pullers do not pay the rent as they are entitled to retain the full earnings.
“We had around 100 rickshaws a decade ago. Gradually, we brought it down to 30 due to low demand. Now most of our rickshaws are goods carriers only,” he pointed out.
“Of course, for cinema shootings I used to rent rickshaws in the past including for the movie ‘Hyderabad Nawabs’,” he says proudly.
Old timers recall going in cycle rickshaws to several places, including single screen movie theatres with their families.
“It was a two-seater rickshaw then. Children sat on the wooden plank. Then the rickshaws charged a few more paise for putting a ‘pardah’ (curtain) to the top when women insisted on it,” recalls Irshad Ali, a pensioner in his mid 80s. #KhabarLive