Chennai: Cycle rickshaws were once upon a time a preferred mode of transport in the city. Over the years with the proliferation of auto rickshaws, rickshaws became a forgotten mode of transport, but in Mylapore, A Shankar, for 25 years now is still a rickshaw man.
Opearating from the Mada Streets and Mandaveli, Shankar is proud to say that he is the only rickshaw man in the locality.
Speaking to News Today on his love for his profession he says, “I started riding a rickshaw in 1995 and have been doing this job for the past 24 years. I don’t know to read and write and came into this because of my family circumstances.” On being asked about the demand for rickshaws when he started, he quickly said.
“Those days we had nearly 10 rickshaws here. But slowly the demand for the rickshaws decreased many of my peers chose to do other jobs like riding auto rickshaws or working as a security guard in apartments. However, I did not want to leave it and decided to continue as whatever I earn through this was sufficient,” he said.
Speaking about his daily routine, he said, “I start my day at 8.30 am from Mandaveli picking up a regular customer to a school nearby. Then I wait near Aavin Booth in Mandaveli and another regular customer will come, whom I had to leave near Kapaleeswrar Temple. At 12.30 pm, I go home and at 2 pm, I reach the Sivaswamy Kalalaya and there I get regular customers and at 5 pm, I wait near the Kalathi Rose Milk shop in the Mada Street till 9 pm,” he said.
On being asked about the difference he feels in his two-and-a-half ecades as a rickshaw driver, he said, “The main difference is income. When I started this, the maximum rate that we charged for a ride was seven or eight rupees, but now the minimum that we charge itself is Rs. 30. Though the customers have reduced, I have many regular customers so that makes it go.”
Speaking about his income, he said, “Everyday the income varies, sometimes I might not even get anything,” he added. He is also a devout MGR fan and adorns his auto with stickers and pictures of the former Chief Minister.
Speaking about his love for MGR, he said, “MGR is next to my mother and father. He is someone who fulfilled all the promise that he had made while on screen, helping the needy then and there. When he ruled the State, he provided nearly eight to 10 items in ration shop, now we hardly get five items from the shop. He also donated a part of his salary for welfare activities, which none of the actors can do today,” said Shankar.
Shankar also has all the MGR movies he has watched in his fingertips. “I have watched all his films without fail and he has acted in 138 films. In those days we would rush to the theatre on Thursdays to see the poster of his upcoming film,” he reminisces.
“I buy two magazines of MGR, which are being sold now, they are ‘Urimai Kural’ and ‘Idhayakani’, which are 30 rupees and 20 rupees respectively, for MGR I spend 50 rupees and if the posters in that book are nice, I would immediately stick that in my rickshaw. From MGR I have learnt one important message which is Never lie, never steal and never beg.”
Speaking about his family, he said, “I have three sons and the elder two sons are settled as well and the younger son is doing carpentry and it is his earnings that is supporting the family.”
“My only aim in life is to buy an own house and as a fan of MGR I want to keep a tall cut out for him and provide food for 500 people, these are my two aims in life that I want to accomplish.”