Last week I had written about the public arts festival set around the metro stations. The one that impressed me was Motornama Roshanara.
This was a trip along the Roshanara Bagh area with the rickshawala acting as your guide. Along the ride we had headphones and an MP3 player. As you hurried along the lanes, you heard songs and interviews related to the trip. The rickshawalas had been trained to talk to the visitors and explain the histories of various places they took them to.
The entire experience was an oral history of the industrial age - its products (machines, factories), its impact on the people, migration, pollution and its decline. From the metro station we traveled many centuries in history. At an ice factory we were told that this technology was brought to India by the Mughals. Babur had complained about India his Baburnama:
.... There are no good horses, meat, grapes, melons or other fruit. There is no ice, cold water, good food or bread in the markets....
Just a few minutes ago we had been shown Palace cinema - one of the first halls to get a license in independent India and now has shut down. A cobbler sitting beside the hall played a film on a laptop stuck onto a tree. The film showed the technology of film projection - the mechanics that have been in use for more than a century.
The entire trip was to make the traveler aware of the technologies that are dying out and with it the skills and jobs. We got into a discussion with the rickshawala about how with each decade even the rickshaw is getting pushed out of the city in favour of cars and other forms of transport.
However with the spread of the metro line I feel that the rickshaw will survive. Many parts of Dwarka and Rohini already have rickshaws plying passengers from the stations to their homes. Their numbers have increased in the last decade. But they feel threatened by the police and transport authorities ban them from entering many areas in the city .
What can be done is that the rickshaw can be used in places where large vehicles are banned. Also the Roshanara trip opens up possibilities where the rickshaws can be used as tour guides for different parts of the city - Chandni Chowk, Mehrauli...
The ice factories and the old cinema halls may shut down but the rickshaw may still survive this century.
Route Plan: Take the metro till Kashmere Gate and then get onto the line to Rithala. Get off at Pul Bangash station. Although the arts festival ends today, the trip through the bylanes is still worth it.