Sunday, August 7, 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure: Rickshaw Gods

Being new to Bandra and physically limited due to my silly ankle, I'm learning the area alongside the rickshaw drivers.  I rely on them. Each time I go out, it's like a Choose Your Adventure story.

 Here's your own Choose Your Adventure story.  I'm tossing you right into Bandra West.

You check the restaurant location one final time on the map.  You're heading to the Saltwater Cafe to meet your friends for a birthday dinner.  You put the map into your purse and leave the apartment building.  You hobble down the street to a location where you've seen many rickshaws.

One rickshaw stops as you wave but the driver doesn't recognize the street or hospital name (your landmark).  Two more ricks stop and the same response.   Eventually, a fourth rick pulls up.

The passenger exits.  He speaks English.  You tell him the address.  87 Chapel Road.  It's near Lalavati Hospital.  He speaks to the driver and tells him your destination.  The driver seems to understand.  He smiles at you.

1.  You choose to go with the driver, assuming he knows where Chapel Road is.
2.  You do not get into the rick and wait for another one who does know Chapel Road.

If you chose 1...
The driver thinks they know where they're going.  He pulls away but turns in the wrong direction.  He zooms through the market near your apartment. You tap him on the shoulder saying no.  Chapel Road.  

He pulls the rickshaw to a stop alongside a shop.  Both you and your driver both lean out of the rick asking people if they know a location in multiple languages.  You're reminded of the t.v. show Cash Cab.  Only your prize is your destination and there aren't any cool disco lights anywhere.  A gentleman stops.  He gives your driver  new directions and you pull away hopeful that you're on track now.

Twenty minutes later, you're still driving around.  The driver is lost again.  He stops and you both lean out a second time asking in each of your native languages for help.  A woman walks over and knows the restaurant.  She instructs the driver where to go. You drive away feeling confident, for now.

The driver starts to slow down.  You think this must be the stop.  He again leans about the window.  A gentleman walks up to the rick.  He speaks English and is carrying a Bible.  He tells you he'll take you to your destination.  Since you don't have change, he actually pays for your rick ride and starts to walk quickly with you down the uneven, wet sidewalk.  It's humid and you're sweating.  The time you spent on your hair and make-up have been lost as you're wet with sweat.  He turns into a pharmacy and asks for directions.  You wipe the sweat away and wonder if you'll ever make it to the birthday dinner.

The rickshaw gods have punished you.

If you chose 2.

 The first rick pulls over.  You say the hospital name.  Lalavati.  He looks at you.  You repeat it, trying to stretch out the word.  Still no recognition.  You say it a third time thinking of what sounds may be emphasized by others.  He knows your destination.  You step into the rick and sit back.  You lean down to catch glimpses out the sides of the rickshaw.  You're on your way to dinner and your friends and a well-deserved drink.

Here's what I've learned.  Perhaps next time you'll try one of these.
1.  You need to know the street to where you're headed.
2.  You need multiple landmarks, if possible, that the driver may be able to identify.
3.  Most likely you will need to repeat the street and or landmark a minimum of three times before the driver knows where they're headed or if they don't know where they're going.
4.  Be ready to say one street name first, such as Turner Road, followed by the intersecting road like Pali.
5.  Be prepared to hop out, pay the rick driver and try a new one.  The next driver may be a better one.

This really did happen to me on Friday night.  The gentleman who I met, invited me to his church, stopped at several other locations and eventually we walked right back to where we started.  The restaurant had been across the street from where he met me.  Seriously?

Here's to hoping the gods are with me for my next trip.


  1. hilarious!! you know they told us people speak english here. they lied.

  2. I thought they lied but maybe it's us who doesn't speak English. Our Illinois accents just are so difficult to understand!