India / Southeast Asia

Rickshaw Bro Code

The driver looked back at me sitting in the back seat and said something I didn’t understand in Marathi.

“What?” I asked him confused.

He gestured to the brake handles as we continued gaining speed down the hill.

Oh, crap. His brakes are broken.

He pulled over to the side of the road, slowly rolling to a stop and sat there for a moment until another rickshaw pulled past.

“Nava Saiaudri?” he shouted to the passing driver–the name of the place I was trying to get to.

The driver nodded and I thanked the man, abandoning the broken rickshaw for the one that had just pulled up. The second driver took me all the way back to my door without any further problems.

I would like to tell you that this instance was an oddity, a rare exception during my time riding in rickshaws in India, but it actually happens with surprising frequency. So far, in four weeks I’ve been in three rickshaws when they’ve broken down. Once it was the brakes, once the engine, and another time just a very bad sound that I still cannot identify.

Each time the rickshaw has broken down the driver has calmly pulled to the side of the road and called to another rickshaw driver to take me the rest of the way.

You have to understand, when I ask a rickshaw driver to take me somewhere there’s a 40 : 60 chance he’ll agree to do so. Sometimes they just shake their heads and pull away without explanation. Sometimes they see that I’m white and drive past as if they don’t see me jumping up and down with my hand out. For some reason, I don’t have the greatest track record getting a ride.

But, without fail, every time a rickshaw breaks down, a fellow driver will step in where the broken-rickshaw driver left off. 100 tp 1.

It’s an unspoken agreement they all have. Judging by the number of broken rickshaws I’ve seen on the side of the road, I can safely assume that all drivers have had their vehicle break at one time or another. They all know what it’s like and they’re there in a heartbeat to help out a fellow driver.

It turns out the bro code isn’t just for How I Met Your Mother. It transcends television, culture and language so that even rickshaw drivers in Pune, India know what to do when they see a bro in trouble.


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