A Rikshaw-puller or a Rikshaw-wala is a normal sight now for every town. He has reached even the villages, A Rikshaw-wala is a driver of a means of transport of vehicle which has three wheels and is generally driven like a cycle. Sometimes back this Rikshaw had only two wheels and man used to pull them, as an animal. Even in hill places and big cities like Calcutta, men-driven rikshaw have not completely disappeared. Really speaking a rikshaw-wala is a two footed animal who acts like a four-footed or a quadruped. A rational animal does the job of a best of burden. This is the gift of Capitalistic Society which believes in exploitation of man by man. A Rikshaw-wala is the example of this unpleasant reality.
The rikshaw-wala is usually a poor man. He earns his livelihood by carrying people on his rikshaw and transporting goods and other material from one place to another. Whether it is winter or rainy season or scorching heat of the summer, a rikshaw-wala is always present with his vehicle to carry the passengers from Railway Station to their destination and from one part of the city to the another and sometimes, from city to villages and for one village to another.
Sometimes village people when they are free from their agriculture assignment come over to the town and take to rikshaw-pulling. This provides them with means of livelihood and so an opportunity to collect money for their agricultural requirements. It also provides employment to many employment seekers. Instances are not unknown when educated people, even graduates, earn their livelihood by rikshaw-pulling. In fact it is means of livelihood.
Rickshaw-pulling is a small job but it is very important also. In this modern age when Tonga and Ekkas are vanishing, this is a cheap and easy and comparatively faster means of communication. The importance of a rickshaw-puller can very well be realised in big towns when buses stop playing and no other means of communication are available. At that time like an instrument of capitalistic society, the rickshaw-puller also exploits the passengers. He does not hesitate in demanding exorbitant fare for carrying a passenger of course a difficulty, from one place to another. He also carries goods and other things.
A Rickshaw is a machinery that does not need fueling like a motor car or green grass for the horse of a carriage. He represents the misery of human life. He leads a difficult life and serves others. He also represents hard labour that is done by the people of India in order to earn their livelihood. He represents the real proletariat class which has nothing to fall back upon except the manual labour.
The rickshaw-puller braves the vagaries of the weather and earns his livelihood. He in fact spoils his health and curtails his life in order to earn his livelihood. He also performs social service. Earning livelihood is not his sole aim because if he is not available, people are put to a lot of inconvenience. Although every moment he is curtailing his life, he is unmindful of it. For a petty amount he carries heavy loads and diverts his attention from the hard labour by singing songs and cutting dirty jokes. While he does all this, he represents the real spirit of socialism. He does not distinguish bet ween the rich and poor while he carries them from one place to another. He charges the same rate whether the passenger is a millionaire or a poor man. Sometimes when the rickshaw is shared by two persons who have to go to the same destination, one is surprised to find that the two persons on the same rickshaw belong to two different classes of the society. Thus, a rickshaw represents a typical example of co-existence.
A rikshaw-puller is also the real representative of the wants and the needs of the society. Today we need bread, proper clothing and a proper house to live. A rikshaw-puller needs all these things very much. In this respect he represents the typical wants and desires of the Indian society. On the other hand, he is lost in his thought and the world. He does everything in the spirit of man who discharges his duties with all faithfulness and sincerity. He does not believe that the smallest thing in life is detestable. He is the real representative of the dignity of labour.
We have already seen that a rikshaw-puller suffers from some of the worst habits. He smokes, drinks gambles and does all sorts. of things. This aspect of his personality represents the dirty picture of our social order. He does not bother about his health and the money that he earns is spent in some of the evil habits also. In these things he represents the evils of the society. It is the society that is responsible for all these evils. Our society does not brother about proper training of the people and does not provide a prover opportunity to the people who want to earn their livelihood by labour. On the other hand the habits that are termed as habits are allowed to be tolerated. This leads to the acquisition of these evil habits by a rikshaw-puller. But he is not to be blamed for these evil habits. It is the society that has ultimately to bear responsibility for it.
Apart from these evil habits, the rikshaw-puller also represents the exploitation of man by man. He has to take-up this job, however injurious for health it may be because he has to earn his livelihood. This again presents before us the hollowness and the draw backs of our social order. Our society does not provide everybody according to his or her needs and does not take work from everybody according to his or her capacity. A rikshaw-wala represents all this in a typical manner.
A rikshaw-wala in spite of his drawbacks and weaknesses, represents the typical example of our capitalistic social order which is based on exploitation. When he dies, there is nobody to mourn on his death. It is not uncommon to see the tragic end of the last days of a rikshaw-puller. His last days are sometimes worse than those of an animal. There is nobody to look after him while he is lying sick in the hospital or at home. Even a dead monkey is more honored after death than the rikshaw-puller who has served the human society for a long time. It is really a sad commentary on our social order.