Read this post on Ozy today and brought back fond memories of home. Where home = Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Where I was born, raised for a bit (kindergarten and high school), pursued college and corporate world and where I return to when I visit family in India. Although this story on the link shared is from a rickshaw driver in Mumbai, rickshaws are pretty much seen everywhere in India.
They are as common as your Ubers and Lyfts here but you don't have to call them (although you could these days), they are everywhere - down the street from home, by the restaurant, close to all the public transport stops...hell, you can hail one as you are walking on the street and climb onto it. There are also share autos - similar to the American concept of carpooling or ride-sharing you'd say. But!!!
Nothing half as close to the experience. A rickshaw ride is mostly for the brave-hearted if you've never been on one. Take one during rush hour traffic - which is pretty much most hours of the day and evening in India - and then tell me what that was like for you. Of course, you will have to forget about all the time you spent doing your hair and makeup or wearing well-ironed/laundered clothes if you ride a rickshaw.
There is a practicality to it - you get in at point A and get off at point B. You are in one piece, that is guaranteed. What condition that one piece is in, is pretty debatable and dependent on each individual. I have never gotten on a rickshaw and got off not having to comb down my hair, wipe off perspiration (I was not joking about the brave-hearted part), and rearrange my disheveled appearance as well as gather my belongings which do tend to somehow disconnect from your strong grip while you are holding on for dear life.
As youngsters, I remember our family of almost 8 getting into a rickshaw (3 adults + 3 kids + 2 cousins or an aunt or a grandparent or an uncle or more cousins) but now that we are all adults, its amazing if 3 fit in and don't complain about hip bones being crushed. Yes, there is kinda no law governing how many sit in a rickshaw, or at least, no law that is strictly enforced. There used to be a time that the rickshaw driver would 'adjust' on his seat so a passenger could ride with him but I believe that isn't allowed any more. There are also female rickshaw drivers now which is more a new development in the last few years.
The convenience of it cannot be denied - especially in cities where the charges are governed by law so you pay a flat fee based on the meter running in your rickshaw. Then of course, there are the neighborhood rickshaw fellows who become family over time and you are just more comfortable taking a ride with them because you trust them to take you safe and sound to your destination, and even wait for you to bring you back. They trust you to pay them for that service and the good will entered, although they also know where you live so there's that.
I've never feared for my life riding a rickshaw, but I've experienced all states of driving from noob learner to mistaken Grand Prix racer. Its always been fun though, so I hope you get to experience that someday! If you've been on one, do share a picture or comment below!