November 20, 2012

Wind Surfing on a Rickshaw

Auto rickshaws are a really common and cheap way to get around in India. We take them to and from train stations and around larger cities. When we were in Mysore (read about it here and here) we met a young rickshaw driver, Aslam, who took us to a couple of places around the city. He spoke great English, despite never having been to school, and was a great tour guide. We decided to hire him the next day to go see the Keshava Temple, a temple about 40 km outside Mysore that was built in 1268. After we visited Aslam's house (tea and henna), we headed out into the country. We were enjoying being in the fresh air and quiet and seeing local village life without other tourists. After about 30 minutes, a motorcycle passed us and yelled something to Aslam. He quickly pulled over and realized we had a flat tire in the left rear. We weren't really sure what we would do, because we were in the middle of a rural area - no shops in site. Aslam had a plan, though.

After a confusing verbal exchange, Aslam somehow convinced me to stand on the outside of the rickshaw on the right side, holding onto a bar on the top, to counterbalance the weight and lift the left side off the street. At first, I thought he just wanted me to do it for a few minutes so he could jack up the rickshaw and fix the tire. But then he hopped in the driver's seat and started driving - while I hung off the side! I looked like I was wind surfing on the rickshaw! He was yelling "Pull! Pull!" as I used my body weight to pull on the rickshaw and take weight off the blown tire. I got hoots, hollers and whistles from Indians on the street and in passing vehicles, who must have all thought I was a tourist-gone-mad. At one point, a huge truck was barreling down the road and I pressed my whole body to the side of the rickshaw to protect myself. After about 5 minutes we, came up on the outskirts of a small town and pulled over at a tire shop where Aslam congratulated himself with "Yeah, that was a good idea." It was a crazy experience and one I would not recommend, but all a part of the unique experience of traveling in India!

Check out all our pics from Mysore here.

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