The good news is that I found out that I can get to Rajpipla and back by shared Jeep or rickshaw for only 10 rupees (20 cents) each way. Sounded preferable to risking life and limb on the back of a motorcycle. I have used this new mode of transport several times now.
Below is a photo of a normal rickshaw. It differs from the shared rickshaws in that the shared rickshaws have an extension on the back with two facing benches that are big enough to hold two small Indians each. I lost track of how many Indians actually fit in them. This is the first new rickshaw that I have ever seen in India. It won’t look like this for long.
My first time to catch a shared rickshaw, I walked the ten minutes out to the one lane paved road and waited only about ten minutes before a rickshaw pulled up.
As far as I could see, the shared rickshaw that stopped for me this time was full to over flowing. However, the driver waved me around to the other side and pointed to a space on the seat next to him. Well, there was a stray sadhu on the other side, so, I figured it was a legitimate way to go. The ride into town is ten minutes on winding country road with assorted bumps and potholes and, then, about five minutes on a two lane main road. The one cheek that fit onto my portion of the seat did fine. The rest of me was suspended between the hand clutching the roof strut and my foot on the edge of the floor was less than happy. Being set down in town was something that caused me considerable joy.
When I had finished my shopping, I was headed to the place where you catch the shared jeeps when up pulls the afore mentioned rickshaw. The driver smiles at me and indicates the same piece of his bench. I shake my head in horror. He understands and scoots over to give me a full portion. It’s hot and I don’t want to wait, so, I accept. This was a much more pleasant experience for yours truly. However, the man on the other side of the driver did not seem so pleased. When we turned off the main road, we came upon some construction at the railway crossing. The driver stopped and went to see what was happening. Everyone piled out to stretch their legs. I was just beginning to loosen the long ones when the driver came hurrying back and jumped on his seat. It was time to go! I hopped on my side only to discover that the man on the other side had slyly taken a full portion in my absence and I was back to one cheek again. I made it home.
So, not being one to be dissuaded by one setback, I ventured forth the next time that I had to visit the tailor. I was fortunate enough to get a ride from one of our guest for the trip into town. This time, I passed by the rickshaws and got a ride in a shared jeep.
The Rule of the Road in India: If your vehicle will not move under it’s own power, then, you have too many people on/in it. Below is a “shared Jeep”. I have never had to ride hanging onto the outside. With this one, there wasn’t even room for that.
Upon arriving at the place where you catch these vehicles, I was directed to the front seat and a young man slid forward to make room for me. There were only five of us sharing the driver’s bench seat. One time, I was the first passenger on the scene and got a the best seat. In the middle section on the driver’s side. You have to get in and out on the passenger side. I had people arrive when seeing me in my place give me a dirty look before turning away to take what they could get. Even little old ladies acted in this way!
Here’s a photo from the inside of a jeep when I was in the middle of the middle seat. The front seat has six people with a guy hanging off the left side. You can maybe see the arm of the guy sitting on the floor to the right of the driver with his arm wrapped around the steering column. The guy you see on the far left is actually sitting on the seat of a man that you can’t see. The bag of bread rolls belongs to the guy hanging off the side.
The view from the middle seat.
Yesterday, it was time to go pick up the clothes from the tailor that were supposed to have been ready three days earlier. I went one day after the due date to find that the fabric had been cut but not stitched. So, I had to return. I then realised that this was what had happened the previous time. What I should have done is go in two days before due date so that he can finish it for me on time. (I have since talked with other people about my experience with my tailor. I’m very fortunate. One friend had to wait one year for a shirt to be made!) When I flag down the shared taxi going into town I’m lucky and a 12 year old girl makes space in the middle seat for me. I only have the one leg hanging out with foot resting on the running board. We start up and thirty seconds later she leans across me to let loose a long stream of saliva onto the road. Thirty seconds later, the same. This continues all the way into town. I figured that she must have been practicing for a statewide contest as no one needs to spit that much. It was an uneventful ride otherwise.
So, my tailor had my Kurtas ready and I bought a few provisions, drank a coconut and headed up to the edge of town where the jeeps were waiting. I waited, and, waited, and, waited. Then, the group of people suddenly headed back down the line to a jeep that already was half full. By the time I reach the scene, there was only on space left and that was beside the driver with my knees under my chin, my legs twisted and my hip aching all in ten seconds. Plus, the gear shift was under my legs. This was dangerous territory! I got out. I looked around. I was in no mood to wait for I didn’t know how long to catch another jeep and maybe be in the same predicament. So…
The good news is:
I will never again climb up the back of a jeep onto the roof and settle into the roof rack on a quite comfortable extra bald spare tire with one foot braced against the back rail of the rack to keep from flying out the back whilst facing backwards then bending forward and holding the two side rails in a death grip in order to stop from flying forward. As we hurtled down the highway I asked the universe why there wasn’t a good traffic jam when you need one. Manoeuvring the country road I kept my head down not knowing whether some improvising Indian had strung an electric cable across the road in the last few minutes at just above car height.
We finally came to my stop. I managed to unclench my hands and, with every part of my body shaking, I clambered down to wobble around like a drunken sailor. I have no idea how I managed to retrieve ten rupees from my wallet for the driver. As I staggered down my dirt road, I said to myself, “I should have done this when I was in my thirties, so that, I would know better than to do it in my sixties”
Kundan! You get in the house. Right now.