100 Days in India Project

Two empty cycle rickshaws sitting outside some shuttered shops in Chawri Bazaar, New Delhi, India.

37/ 100 The Marudhar Express Part 2 – Choosing a Tuk Tuk

The Indian city of Varanasi is arranged in such a way that there is very little motorised traffic allowed in the parts close to the river, such as the area we were staying in. This meant that to get transport to the railway station we had to walk a few hundred meters to the point where the hundreds of cycle rickshaws, Tuk Tuks and taxis congregated in the hunt for their prey. As experienced travellers we were very used to the cacophony of voices trying to tempt us to use their mode of transport and made a point of taking the time to choose our own Tuk Tuk at leisure.

The very first guy that came to us to try and snag a fare was a tiny little chap who, in the face of it, seemed just as good as any of the other Tuk Tuk drivers who were all shouting and jostling for our business. However I started to get a little uneasy as we approached his ride whilst other drivers were saying that he was a bad man, but then again, they said that kind of thing all the time because they all wanted to drive us to the station too. They would frequently tell us that there were no Ubers, that all the taxis were cancelled because of a thing, or that only their taxi was legal and safe. All completely false claims.

Our ride began fairly normally but then we realised quite quickly that this driver was, indeed, a bad man. He was using his Tuk Tuk to push cows out of the way (most folk wouldn’t even touch a sacred cow with their hand, let alone hit one with their vehicle) and, sure enough, he then began his well-rehearsed act about the usual road being blocked by the police and how he would have to go another way but it was longer and would cost more money blah blah.

We told him to stop, which he wouldn’t so, when he slowed down enough I just threatened to jump out. He began a barrage of apologies and a promise that he would stick to the standard route but it was too late. He eventually had to stop and, when he did, we were out of there with our rucksacks, and off to find an alternative.

After a few minutes we came across an unusual electric Tuk Tuk and persuaded the old driver to take us to the station. Rather than touting for business he was actually reluctant to take a fare at all. Possibly because his battery barely had any charge. He finally agreed and so began the slowest, and most relaxing, taxi ride I have ever been on in my life. We could definitely have just walked as fast. Still, he got us to our destination at an average speed of around 3 mph and he pocketed the extra money that we didn’t end up paying to the first trickster guy. By now it was midnight and our train was already 6 hours late.

Intended Train departure time: 5.30pm
Current delay: 6 hours

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