Some say Kolkata is the last city on earth to still use enormous Chinese-style rickshaws pulled by men on foot. An attempt to ban this rickshaw in 2006 was met with such fierce protest by irate wallahs (rickshaw pullers) that today, at least 18000 of them are still pulling these heavy rickshaws for a living.
My Hassan was one such wallah. A poor man, Hassan had travelled to the city from his village to look for a job. With little employment opportunities, pulling a rickshaw was the natural choice. It was after all, the first job for most peasants migrating to the city.
Now Hassan may have little education but he is no simpleton. He reads widely and is extremely creative. It was in 1900 that Hassan saw a tricycle for the first time in his life. This was the year
It didn't take Hassan long to put two and one (wheels, that is) together and voila, the "tri-shaw" was born.
You can see how Hassan's "tri-shaw", (years to come, it will be more popularly known as the "cycle rickshaw" in India), is much improved over the wooden wheeled hand pulled rickshaw which weigh a ton, even when empty. It is also more dignified for the wallah to be providing his service by riding side by side his passenger rather than pulling from beneath.
Now if you are wondering why our dear wallah parked his trishaw in a handicapped lot, that is not a "handicap person" sign! It is a vintage drawing of a passenger in a rickshaw, as Hassan will have you know.
And here he is now, pre-dawn, making sure no constables are around.
After carefully placing a beautiful rug weaved by his loving wife in the trishaw, Hassan is ready to set off to meet his 1st customer for the day.
Ooh, that unruly beard (made with real doll's hair). If only Hassan spends half as much time grooming as he spends on his trishaw, he will be quite a handsome devil. Not that he cares.
Here is Hassan making a u-turnStopping 10 minutes later to check on his trishaw.
New Under-Cover and Blue Silk Seat- checked
Freshly painted motifs-checked
Trimmings down, checked, checked!
But what Hassan is most proud of is the silver bell he made for his ride . "Inspired" by the "the Peerless Bells" when he chanced upon the design, he had memorised the details and faithfully reverse engineered his own.
TODAY is Hassan's lucky day! A really beautiful woman has just finished marketing and was standing at the corner, with her baskets on the floor, looking a little flustered.
Now, let me help you with your burden while you step up to my carriage.
The fair lady smiled and settled comfortably.
The other way, sir, but the sign says "One Way" only?
Don't worry, my fair lady, signs don't mean anything here.
The lady laughed.
And I am Hassan. But don't you go fancying me now, I am a happily married man.
And I am a perfectly happy housewife.
But if you have a daughter, my son will marry her. I send most of my money home so our son can have a proper education and become someone useful.
And if your son is as diligent, clever and chivalrous as you are, my daughter will marry him.
Hassan let out such a hearty laugh, half the town can hear him booming.
And here is Hassan junior with Suri d/o (daughter of) Suri. The "street" with too many signs has since been converted into a park. Hassan is now a teacher and the newly weds are visiting the spot where their betrothal was first discussed. Laughing frequently as they recounted to each other, for the 100th time, the conversations their parents had.
And if you have guessed that my Hassan and Suri were made after much hacking and sawing the dolls in the last pic, you are right. Don't worry, Hassan Junior and Suri d/o Suri are still in 1 piece.