Dhaka has apparently 600,000 rickshaws ferrying people around, and Bangladesh itself must have millions. You can get nearly everything and anything on a back of a rickshaw, and if you can’t, you use a rickshaw van. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a single street, anywhere, at any time of the day, and not seen one. Rickshaws are simply an embedded feature of the Bangladesh environment, culture, and economy.
The average rickshaw driver (rickshaw-wallah) makes about 100-200 taka a day (130 taka to one pound sterling), and most fares are very short distances of under a mile, for maybe 5-10 taka, unless it’s me on the back because I always pay a bit more. They usually rent their rickshaw from a gang-master, who takes a bit of their pay in return for providing the most basic food and lodging.
They work completely exposed to all elements ranging from monsoon, 100% humidity, 40 degree heat, and currently fairly cold fog, usually wearing extremely little, and also battle through horrendous traffic and sickening pollution. It should be said that half the congestion is their fault, because busy streets can literally become locked with rickshaws nose to tail, and nothing gets along.
But overall, I’ve got a lot of respect for them, because they’re truly the cogs in Bangladesh‘s machine.
Since I arrived in Bangladesh, as a really keen cyclist I’ve been desperate to drive a rickshaw to see how what they’re like. On Boxing Day I found out.