The Rickshaw


      By Roshanak Pashaee
Illustration by Michael Chance

The rickshaw driver in checked lungi is shouting something I don't understand. It is him, I, and some twenty other rickshaw men around us. The sweaty circle of yellow angry teeth gets tighter every second. Now I can feel someone breathing on my neck.

       What shall I do now? I can't call any friends. I don't have their phone numbers with me. I can't call any travel mates either. They all took their baggage and left the day before.

      Looking me straight in the eye one of them gestures something. Am I being threatened?

      "Chin up!" Dad says. He is standing next to an orange rickshaw with green patterns.

      "You are dead. Don't speak when you are dead!" I say.

      "I am not dead. Look! I can wave. Can a dead man wave?" Dad is waving at me now. His hand passes through a driver's brown muffler and head.

      "Amake vara mitaye den! Amake vera mitaye den!" I can see the rickshaw man's angry eyes.

      "He wants his fare." Dad says.

      "Shut up. You shouldn't have died in the first place." I say.

      The crowd boos. They must think I am speaking rudely to them. I do not understand a word they are saying and they do not understand a word I am saying. There is something about swear words though. Everyone knows when she is being sworn at.

      "I am not talking to you." I say to the rickshaw men.

      "I couldn't help dying. No one can." Dad says.

      "Let me concentrate." I say.

      Dad is having fun poking his fingers into the drivers' body parts.

      "Amake vara mitaye den!"

        "The poor man's children must be hungry." Dad looks at his thumb which he has just pulled out of someone's cheek.

     " Oke vara mitaye den!"

      "Ok. Take me to the hotel where I can pay you. I must have left my purse there. Hotel? Do you understand? Take me to the hotel please." I beg.

      "Ami jani amake apni diben naâ" The rickshaw man says.

      "Have you taken your umbrella?" Dad asks.

      A drop falls on my head and another on the driver's head. Soon there is such a shower that people scatter around taking shelter under the trees.

      "Hotel please? Please?"

      The driver hesitates for a moment. Then he gets on his rickshaw, adjusts his feet on the pedals and drives away in the rain.

     "You should always carry your umbrella with you" Dad says.

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