ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Commuter’s Quandary

The Daily Swayamvara

Finding willing rickshaws and taxis for one’s daily commute in Mumbai is a hit-and-miss affair.

The swayamvara was a process in ancient India whereby a woman of marriageable age would choose a husband by garlanding him, from amongst a line of suitors. Every morning, as I stand on the street outside my building, I feel like a suitor in a swayamvara, one in a queue of several individuals waiting for a rickshaw driver to stop and “garland” me by agreeing to ferry me to the railway station from where I catch the train to work: the daily swayamvara.

In Mumbai—where I live and spend long hours on my daily commute—most rickshaw drivers just rush past commuters, not even deigning to stop. Others slow down as they pass by, inquire about your destination, reject you if your destination doesn’t suit them at that particular point of time, and drive off in a great hurry, leaving one wondering whether driving a rickshaw is a profession or a pastime. Some rickshaw drivers come to a complete halt, usually a few feet ahead of the hopeful commuter, and look back nodding upwards, thereby conveying a positive vibe, only to turn them down the moment after the destination is revealed. Consecutive rejections leave you feeling rather dejected, frustrated, and livid, prompting you to ask the next rickshaw driver you hail, “Where do you want to go? Why don’t you take me there?” The sarcasm is lost on most of them. They look at me in disbelief. This daily swayamvara could take anywhere between 20 minutes to half an hour, till I am finally “garlanded” and taken to the train station for the next leg of my commute.

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Updated On : 2nd Aug, 2019

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