The India Connection


• Rickshaws from Canada •

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Rickshaws from Canada.

On my first trip to India in 2004, while in Aurangabad from where I would visit the Ajanta and Ellora caves, I hired a man with a motor rickshaw for the day. Ashok was very polite and reserved. I invited him to join me for lunch at a restaurant and upon insisting, he accepted.

“Why you want to spend money on me?” he asked. He ordered the least expensive thing on the menu. During our meal, I asked him about himself. He came from a village several hours from Aurangabad and had come to this large city as a young man of 18, penniless and with only the earrings from his wife as currency. He now had 3 teenage children. He told me how when he first came to the city, he had to sleep on the street or in the railway station.

“For two months, I walk, I try to find work, I eat one meal each day, I sleep on the street.” As he relived those painful years, tears welled in his eyes. His father had told him he must go to the city since the land was not big enough to feed him and his family.

“Did you choose your wife?” I asked him. “No”, he replied, “my father had promised I would meet her before we married but I did not. But it's O.K. now”, he added.

We talked for a long time. “I have only two wishes”, he told me. “I would like for my daughter to find a good husband and I would like to one day own my own motor rickshaw.”  I asked him how much a motor rickshaw cost. It was a huge sum for an Indian earning what he could earn. “I already have 9,000 rupis (about $250. then) saved”, he told me. He would likely be hoping that I would be generous with his day's fare. He had told me to pay what I wanted. I knew there was no way he would ever have enough money to buy a rickshaw.

I was thinking that I could just go to a bank machine and withdraw the amount and get him a rickshaw, at least a second-hand one. After all, my trip was costing me almost nothing; my hotel rooms were usually less than $20. a night.

I asked if I could visit his home and he took me to meet his wife and children. The house was impeccably clean and tidy; it consisted of one room about 14 feet by ten feet and of a narrow kitchen. He and his wife slept in a small bed and the children slept on mats which they rolled up during the day. They took their meals on the floor. Ashok showed me pictures that other tourists had taken of him. He also showed me an email address that someone had set him up with.

When I came home and told my husband the story, he said, “you should have got him a motor rickshaw.” I had his email address; the rest is history.

Ashok's daughter was able to study to become a teacher; she married a teacher; his oldest son became a policeman as was his ambition. Sadly, his youngest boy died in a car accident. Ashok now has his own travel business in Aurangabad and was even mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide (2007, I believe).

On subsequent trips, I managed to offer a bycicle rickshaw to a man I had hired for a week in Jaipur. Later, my sister Marie paid for two bicycle rickshaws one of which became the Christmas present for her 5 grandsons.

Making friends with the family who received my sister's rickshaw.

Meeting the family
A hug to bring back for Marie and Scott, the sponsors.
One daughter earns 25 rupies (50 cents) a day making bracelets

On my last trip with a couple of friends in October 2014, we were the lucky messengers for seven rickshaws and for blankets and sleeping pads for about 120 people suffering from Hansen's Disease (leprosy) and for street dwellers. These were sponsored by Kingston and area friends.

Danielle, Malka, Judy and friends.
Malka with blankets and mats for distribution.
Judy, Laxman, Malka, selecting treasures for supporters.


I put together this slide show for the donors to see the families and their rickshaws.

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