Observations on City Traffic in Lahore
A long time ago in Pakistan, perhaps 10 years or 10 days ago, there was a donkey pulling a flatbed two-wheeled cart atop which there sat a Baba. Imagine that vehicle as a predecessor to the tricycle, for there were three points of contact around which the vehicle moved and pivoted: the two wheels and the quartet of little hooves of the donkey serving as the other if not axle, then assle. Assles comes in various shapes and sizes, including the quartet of horse hooves, the quartet of oxen hooves, the duet of a very unfortunate Baba’s two feet, and the spoked-wheel of the tricycle proper. Now the assle pulling the axle of a flatbed cart is perfect for hauling sacks of potatoes and people, provided the people sitting on the gunny sacks don’t mind wearing some grime on the seats of their assles. Some enterprising fellow once figured out that he could strap a couple of kitchen chairs to the flatbed with some rawhide and there we have a smartly-dressed couple sitting in chairs atop two assles being pulled by an assle. A disadvantage to having assles that heehaw or whinny or moo pulling the two assles in starched clothes and perfume is that the two assles sittin’-n-ridin’ don’t want to shovel the heehaw debris nor hold the reins (the reins of that flatbed cart, not other reins of course, like the reins of polo ponies one sees walking down the streets near the Cavalry Grounds): That’s right, the problem is the five rupee tip the couple may have to pay to the Driver that some kinds of assles require. Or maybe the five rupee tip isn’t the problem after all, rather maybe the fact that however domesticated the heehaws and whinnies and moos are, for thousands of years they have refused to give up dropping road apples whenever they need no matter who sits atop the chairs. So wind is a problem for the couple sitting atop the chairs on flatbed carts, especially because that couple is traveling to a Wedding event and want to look and feel and smell their absolute Best. So some other enterprising fellow figured out, let’s get the Baba to pull these two assles along, he won’t need a harness, nor will he need as much water or fodder as those other assles do, nor will he leave apples strewn about on the road: and so the world had the rickshaw proper.
Along came a banker, who needed to buy some stock in exactly 1.95 hours because of that common practice men have also invented called insider-trading: it was critical for the banker to arrive at the stock exchange before the exact two hour mark because after that, the news would be out that solar panels would take off big and he wanted to make loads of money by buying low and selling high. The banker knew that the man pulling the rickshaw only had so much energy and could only move so fast given the very large quantity of assles clogging the roads. The banker was a humanist of a sort. So the banker thought, hmmm, let’s strap a motorcycle to this cart, plop the Baba atop the Suzuki, and then the banker would have a reliable machine hauling him around town. And so off they went, and mankind had the motorcycle-rickshaw hybrid. Understand the Baba didn’t need to have a driver’s license because who in tarnation does in this land where the traffic police are quite busy directing traffic while taking cover under beach umbrellas staked into the asphalt. Speaking of umbrellas and traffic, we must recall the woman who nearly fainted every time she traveled to Weddings because of the intensity of the Punjab sun on her head and so she strapped an umbrella to her chair, and then mankind had the covered cart variety of motorcycle-rickshaw. Then another woman observed that wind is still a problem for umbrellas when it’s raining sideways or when the motorcycle-rickshaw throws water at her from the treads and she thought it would be a good idea to build a box atop the cart, roughly the size of an outhouse. Well, then there was a driver of a motorcycle-rickshaw who couldn’t manage to save enough rupees to buy sunglasses and so having grown tired of his eyes hurting from the dirt, water, and wind of the roads, he invented a windshield which was really nothing more than a Monty Python-like shield of cardboard and plastic sheeting but it was sufficient. Turned out the banker spied the windshield contraption hauling an outhouse structure on wheels and hightailed it to a business associate with tentacles into every industry and vice throughout the land, and they procured at dirt-cheap prices a sea cargo container of Cushman vehicles, slapped some lead paint on them, and then there was the four-stroke CNG model of rickshaw with three wheels. Gentlemen and gentlewomen were elated as were the banker and the godfather who had thought, Hell these people don’t need Cushmans to haul garbage or recyclables, they need Cushman-rickshaws to haul them around this dusty city teeming with so many assles. The banker and godfather made so much self-help happiness that they soon imported a BMW and a vintage Model T that once belonged to Jay Leno. For the banker and godfather were keen on four-wheeled vehicles having watched farmer after farmer and bricklayer after bricklayer driving Massey-Ferguson tractors throughout the city. The vintage Model T was soon envied by the masses, who discovered that Geo Metro sized cars kinda look like miniature vintage Model Ts and solved the problem of wind and rain for traveling.
Meanwhile, unwatched by it seems nearly everyone, some generals converted tanks and jeeps and large flatbed trucks into all kinds of cargo and passenger trucks and vans and buses and converted lots of choice land into cash — euros and dollars, not rupees. I think no one noticed the military takeover of the roads and real estate business because it wasn’t a coup in the proper sense and because the people were distracted by having to make daily trips to get clean water and candles for dealing with the daily blackouts. It’s difficult to sweat the big stuff when you are hauling gallons of water and mattresses and sacks of rice on your motorcycle, bicycle, or on your own two sandaled feet. And no one knows who asked the Turks to come back to the Indus River Valley bearing passenger buses and waste management systems — it could have been the banker or godfather, a general, or a woman with an urgent desire for Turkish delights and baklava, but come the Turks did with their hybrid buses and garbage-packers for which multitudes of school children, clerks, shopkeepers, shoppers, and the environmentally-inclined are most grateful. But everyone knows everyone is thrilled at the backwards tricycles that some man named, Mr. Wall, deployed for selling ice cream virtually anywhere three simple wheels can go. Throughout history, things don’t just suddenly start and suddenly stop they overlap and exist simultaneously, and of course the never-ending impulse and urgent need to move somewhere, everyday, around the clock, never ends for people thirsty for life have got a few rupees just burning holes in their pockets and so you still see every single manner of transport previously mentioned on the roads in Pakistan, all jumbled together, like a splendid and ludicrous mess of a buffet table set to woo a Punjabi textile CEO.
Well, that is, every single manner of transport except a Baba pulling the two assle cart — the original rickshaw — with his own flesh and bones as if he were a mere beast of burden. Those humanists again. Viva la motorized rickshaw.