Recently, I ventured to my ancestral homeland of India for a quick vacation that would take me to four cities over the course of thirteen days. To provide some perspective to see how a country of 1.2 billion people gets around, I tried my best to document the different modes of transport during my journey.
Living in the US, you don't see the exciting and varied methods of wheeled transportation that Indians encounter on a daily basis. In the US, it's just cars, buses, trucks, the occasional motorcycle, and perhaps some bicyclists if you live in a city.
There are numerous modes of transportation in India. The object of the most fascination, to me, is the auto rickshaw. The auto rickshaw is a three-wheeled vehicle with the motor of a small motorcycle that somehow has the emissions of an 18-wheeler. In the Philippines, the rickshaw is called the "tuk-tuk," an extremely accurate onomatopoetic name. In India, it's usually just referred to as an "auto." I've also heard "rick."
I spoke with friends and family across the country to see what ridesharing apps are most common amongst their peer groups, and Uber was the default response. While I was there, I vowed to try an Uber MotoX (a ride on a motorcycle) but there was never one available.
Another app, called Ola, allows users to hail rickshaws, but users must have a valid Indian-based phone number so I was unable to test it out. In Bangalore, when I polled my cousin's friends, a 30-something guy working in real estate (whose name escapes me) mentioned a unique benefit of hailing rickshaws by Ola app.
In India, auto rickshaw drivers are sometimes extremely selective in who they pick up. It's not necessarily a question of race—though I've witnessed autos almost crashing into each other trying to pick up a white person, because they can charge a higher "non-meter" rate—but rather destination. Drivers sometimes have a predetermined destination they'd like to go to, and if that's not in sync with your location, you'll politely be asked to fuck off. However, with Ola, drivers are only assigned to the user once they've accepted the ride (same as Lyft/Uber), so this is not an issue.
The assorted options of transportation seem to reflect the current "age of disruption" in the country. There is something beautifully jarring about seeing cows pulling carts alongside app-summoned vehicles to transport people and goods. At the very least, it's very real reminder that people got shit done before apps, the internet, or even internal combustion-powered vehicles.
Delhi: The Hindustan Ambassador, an OG Indian-made vehicle that looks pretty much identical to when it was first produced in 1958, and whose reign ended in 2014 when production for the car was halted due to slowing demand. My dad grew up with one of these in his family.
Delhi: In Chandni Chowk, an extremely popping and historical marketplace in Old Delhi, cow-power is still utilized.
Delhi: The leg strength of pedicab guys in India is unbelievable, especially if you try to calculate the weight-to-power ratio, along with the temperature—approximately 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
Delhi: Pedicab parking. As I asked my friend Ashish, a Delhi native, if it would be too conspicuous to walk around this area with a camera, he replied, "No, you'll see white people here. They love this shit."
Bombay: This cab's paint honors the auto rickshaw's design. Note: this is my only picture from my time Bombay due to a bout of food poisoning. My main mode of transportation during this time was porcelain and did not have wheels.
Bangalore: Scooters, a clearly effective method of transportation, are plentiful in India. This is remarkable to me because they are just as available and effective as a means of intercity transport in the US, but seem to carry a stigma.
Bangalore: Taking an Uber to the airport. I broke my rule of always sitting in the front, mostly because we didn't speak the same language, and also because it was 5 AM.
Mangalore: Rickshaw dash view. Note the two dudes sharing a motorcycle ride in the vicinity without anyone making a big deal about it.
Mangalore Airport: Boarding a small spicy plane back to Bangalore.
Bangalore: People seem much more daring with the loads they are willing to bear while riding a motorcycle, whether it is luggage or people.