Autorickshaws: Amazing Rides and Engaging Drivers

Auto-rickshaws are a common sight in many many developing countries.  For those who are from India, they know that a “rick” is a life-saver.  There are many names for a rickshaw – three-wheeler, samosa, tempo, tuk-tuk, trishaw, autorick, or even bajaj (after the company which makes the most popular version in India).  In the African countries, these are also known as bajaji (in Madagascar and Tanzania), keke Napep or Maruwa (in Nigeria).

Corradino D’Ascanio was an aircraft designer at Piaggio and inventor of the Vespa came up with the design of a three-wheeled vehicle to power Italian economy post the Second World War.

In India, the autorickshaws were introduced by Bajaj auto limited (M/s Bachraj Trading Corporation Private Limited) in 1959.  It was inspired  from Piaggio’s  Ape C model.  Bajaj Auto produced these under Piaggio license.  Today, autorickshaws are manufactured by companies like Bajaj Auto, Kumar Motors, Kerala Automobiles Limited, Force Motors (previously Bajaj Tempo), Mahindra & Mahindra, Piaggio Ape, and TVS Motors.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of rickshaws today in India.  One, where the engine is below the driver’s seat.  Second, the engine is in the rear.  Although most rickshaws still run on petrol and diesel, but the governments in most states are moving them to use CNG as a fuel.

Autorickshaws can be a mundane “from-A-to-B” kind of vehicle.  But those who have tried to engage on any of those short journeys they know how rewarding the experience can be.

Sandeep Bachche: A Celeb Auto Rickshaw driver

To get a feel, let us meet perhaps the most amazing auto driver in the world, who keeps his auto as it were a corporate limo with every amenity in place. Mind you he is in a city, where the autos stop at Bandra and do not go South of that area. South Mumbai doesn’t allow rickshaws.

A complete package!
A complete package!

His name if Sandeep Bachche alias “Munnabhai SSC”.  Bachche was born and brought up in the Bandra-Karla area.  His auto rickshaw has an STD/PCO phone (to make long distance calls within India – in case your cell gives way), free Wi-Fi and also a TV screen, has daily newspapers for the passengers, business news updates with currency rates and stock market indices as well sunset and sunrise times, a first aid kit (which he replenishes every 3 months!), and most importantly he has a donation box for donations to cancer relief. (Images below courtesy Buzzfeed)

WiFi and TV screen
WiFi and TV screen
Medicines and Advice
Medicines and Advice
Newspapers and Daily updates
Newspapers and Daily updates

Sandeep is also a large hearted man, who gives discounts to elderly, the handicapped and the newly weds!

He also is active on social media – with his own twitter account @sandeepbachche (with 634 followers)   He has also given a TED talk!

Interesting conversations

Just as Sandeep Bachche, there are many autorickshaw drivers who are interesting human beings.  They many not be doing up their vehicle the way Bachche does it, but they can make you think or engage with you in a conversation that will impact you for long.  Here are a couple of conversations that a Quora participant had with two rickshaw drivers. One in Ahmedabad and one in Hyderabad. They are worth a read.

Driver – So, you are in engineering?
Me – Yeah, soon to be. I am joining my college in a month.
D – Ah. Good. My son is in his final year. He is doing textile[as far as I remember] engineering from Nirma University. (a respectable private college in Gujarat)
M – That’s great. So what is he planning to do now?
D – He got a decent job in placements, it’s a lot of money for people like us, but he wants to study more. Somewhere outside, but not America. I am not able to recollect the country’s name.
M – Wow. So, what do you think? Do you have the resources to manage?
D – It’s very tight. First I thought I would ask him to take up the job. Nirma is not a cheap university, Sir. All my savings are already gone. I will have to put my village land on mortgage for further studies.
M – And?
D – I drive for school children in the morning. So I asked their parents for their opinion. One of them was a bank manager, and he said, he can get me the best loan option available for my land, and will help me initially with his personal money too. So now I am thinking. So I ask everyone in my auto who looks from an engineering background on what to do.
M – I think, generally the returns will be larger if he studies more, so if you can manage for two more years, I think you should go for it.
D – Yes, that’s what I thought.
Dad – Great. So your driving days are almost over. Just two more years. Your son should be really proud of you.
D – Yes, Sir. He knows what all sacrifices I have made for him. He is very grateful. I am more grateful to the people like you who made me understand the value of education, otherwise I would have made him a rick driver like me only!

2. In Hyderabad. Was going to some tourist place.
I was interning in Hyderabad for a couple of months. Driver was young, around 25-30. This happened in Hindi.
Driver – So what are you doing in Hyderabad? Job?
Me – No. I am interning at a company here.
D – So many of them in HiTech city. Wipro?
Me – No, Microsoft.
D – Good good. I did engineering for three years, but then dropped out. Didn’t like it. Saving money for my younger brother. He is much sharper than me.
M – Great! So do you do anything besides Auto driving?
D – Oh I have done quite a few of things in my life. Was trading in empty oil barrels for a few years, learnt construction and worked for a couple of years in Dubai, came back to Hyderabad to take care of my brother’s education, and now saving cash to do business in Dubai again.
M – Oh, won’t you need quite a lot cash for starting a business in Dubai?
D – Yeah, but that is all thought out. Have started another trading business in the side here, hopefully it will fetch some considerable cash. In my free time, I drive Auto. Earn enough from rick for groceries at least. Meet new people like you!
M – Wow, great. <We were at our destination, couldn’t pick his brain more>. All the best.

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