I saw it while returning back from Dera Nawab Sahib railway station to Ahamaed Pur East city . It is a relic from the past not found in cities as it was banned few years after partition. However in Bahawalpur princely state they kept playing till late being a primary mode of transport for locals and an important part of Rohi heritage. My wife remembers her childhood days in early eighties, visiting Bahawalpur with parents and enjoying cycle rickshaw ride from railway station till her aunt’s house located inside Farid Gate. Her grandmother who was from a respected family from ‘Shah Jahan Pur’ India migrated at the time of partition and made Bawalpur their home. My mother in law grew up here in Shahi Bazar (as they call it). Her family house is still standing but almost in rubbles. The traffic in those days used to be slow and tolerant of slow speed cycles. The rickshaws were available on street corner just a loud call away. Decorated and painted with traditional style of painting in bright yellow and red colours. Braids of same colour woolen threads hanging from the cycle carrier and plastic ribbons with the cycle handles which used to flutter with winds during
mov. It was preferred being the cheapest mode of transport for short distances. Being a symbol of Bahawalpuri culture in those day , an adventurous visitor would prefer the cycle rickshaw at bus stand or a station as it was a little raised from ground slow moving platform giving an opportunity to enjoy the view around reminiscent of Takhat e Rawan (تخت رواں) .
One can merely make a rough guess about the origin of this creature, it might be product of first world war when private motors were either hired or confiscated by governments for military purposes or its ancestor might be pulled rickshaw commonly found in Asia and east Africa from start of nineteenth century. with the passage of time due to proliferation of motor rickshaw and the thought that a man pulling other human beings is a demeaning labour, they were completely banned in nineties by Nawaz Sharif Government and all rickshaws were bought and banished to Bangladesh as they were in demand there (Probably it was less demeaning there). The effected were given yellow cabs on easy instalments. However within few years those yellow cabs found their better use with the one who could afford it and bend some rules.
Cycle Rickshaws again started playing on the roads of ‘Ahmedpur East’ and other adjoining areas on the orders of Lahore High Court Bahawalpur Bench in year 2004. The drivers pleaded that it is a source of income for poverty stricken and unemployed youth of the area.
Now this banning thing is really an amusing solution which regressive societies adopt to when they come across a problem. Kite flying is causing inconvenience?, no problem just ban it and order police to raid the secret kite dens in the nook and corners of cities. Surely it gives a police something interesting to do. A writer or an intellectual is constantly raisin difficult question agitating minds of commoners and government alike, slam a ban on him. From that perspective, we can safely call our country “Banistan”.
The gadgets and tools used in any culture are evolved over long period of time commiserating with needs and economic realities present in that society. Imposing a foreign solution to get rid apparently an unpleasant part of that culture doesn’t seem wise and fare especially to destitute. I believe these rickshaws can be brought back to our small towns by adding electrically charged batteries and small motors thus requiring less labour from its drivers. If encouraged this task can be relegated to locals who are master of ‘Jugars’ after all it is interesting to mention that much hated motorcycle-rickshaw, better known as Qingqi rickshaw was first engineered at Vehari city by Mr Muhammad Akram .