“Today, is a special day, it is my son’s birthday,” beamed Deva, my rickshaw driver. I was in Kandy, a city in the center of Sri Lanka. It was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka. The city lies in the midst of the hills in the Kandy plateau, which crosses an area of tropical plantations, mainly tea. Kandy is the home of The Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the most venerable places for the Buddhist community of Sri Lanka.
The Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Deva, the rickshaw driver
It was a quiet night in Kandy, the city seemed to shut down by 8 pm. The city did not seem to have much of a night life. I passed the Queen’s Hotel, one of the oldest hotels (nineteenth century) in the city, twice while doing a loop of the town. A British pub was located in the hotel, the former governor’s mansion. I peered through the window each time I passed. A solitary man leaned up against the bar on the first loop, on the second loop, the pub was empty. This provided a signal to head back to my hotel that overlooked the city on a hill.
I negotiated with Deva near the hotel for a 200 Rupees fare, about a $1.66. I think I overpaid. Deva shared with me he had been driving a rickshaw for about eight years. And his hobby was collecting currencies from around the world…he listed the countries in his collection. Maybe this was a subtle hint to pick up an additional American dollar at the end of the ride.
As we approached my hotel, Deva made an offer. “Would you like to drive my rickshaw?” I smiled. This would be a perfect dry run for the rickshaw race, the 2000 KM Mumbai Xpress, in India this summer. Deva pulled over to the side of the ride. I joined him on the singular driver’s seat. It was cramped for one, and very uncomfortable for two. The front window was low, and visibility was limited. The mechanics seemed straight forward. A solitary pedal on the floor, the brake. The right handle included the accelerator, and the left handle allowed you to switch the gears.
In the pitch dark, I revved the weak engine, and managed to push the rickshaw into second gear. I safely navigated the vehicle for three minutes and pulled over at the hotel.
Just a taste. 2000 KM, 12 days. This summer.