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runner-pulled rickshaw of kolkata, india

Focused: A typical evening at Sudder Street, Kolkata

The people in the lanes most regularly use rickshaws- not the poor but people who are just a notch above the poor. They are people who tend to travel short distances, through lanes that are sometimes inaccessible to even the most daring taxi driver. An older woman with marketing to do, for instance, can arrive in a rickshaw, have the rickshaw wallah wait until she comes back from various stalls to load her purchases, and then be taken home. People in the lanes use rickshaws as a 24-hour ambulance service. Proprietors of cafés or corner stores send rickshaws to collect their supplies. (One morning I saw a rickshaw wallah take on a load of live chickens—tied in pairs by the feet so they could be draped over the shafts and the folded back canopy and even the axle. By the time he trotted off, he was carrying about a hundred upside-down chickens.) The rickshaw pullers told me their steadiest customers are schoolchildren. Middle-class families contract with a puller to take a child to school and pick him up; the puller essentially becomes a family retainer.
[by Calvin Trillin in National Geographic magazine. Read the full article here.)

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