Don’t really know where I’m going, and it must be quite obvious, because a fella in one of those bicycles with a box on the back of it stops and asks me if I want a ride. “Cheaper than a taxi” he says, and I agree. It’s pissing rain as usual, and the box at least has a roof and a plastic cover. Before I get in the contraption, though, I demand to know what it is called.
“A rickshaw. They’re all the rage in India!” He explains enthusiastically, as if India has suddenly become the new beacon of hipsterdom.
As we meander through the streets I am quite pleasantly not being rained on, and also not having to engage in the tedious mundane conversation with the usual cabbie types. This guy is pedalling with such vigour that he could probably compete in the Tour de France, and he reserves no time for conversation. Just heavy panting.
Suddenly, he stops in the middle of a busy road, cars speeding past us on either side, and I am about to lift the plastic cover to see what is wrong, when it is kindly lifted for me by someone from outside.
“D’ya want some charlie, bud?” asks a bulging-eyed man with a large shiny oval head and a stomach to match. I look at him, evidently clueless.
“Charlie. D’ya wanna buy some?” He taps a small bit of white powder out of a plastic bag and onto the top of his hand, and nudges it in my direction. “Here, you can try before you buy. Top stuff.”
I have no idea what he’s talking about, but his demeanour scares me somewhat. “Uhh no… I’m okay, thanks.”
He hoovers the whole lot up into his nose with one swift move. “No problem bud. Here, d’ya wanna take my number? Gis a buzz if you change your mind. Ya might need some in the future, you know…” He takes out his phone.
I agree that one never really knows what the future might hold in store, and I don’t want to be rude. He grabs my phone and swiftly punches in a bunch of numbers.
“Here you go pal. The name’s Chalky. Like chalk, yeah? Chalky. Gis a bell whenever, yeah?” He kindly seals up the plastic cover of the rickshaw seat, and taps the driver on the back and whistles at him to keep on, as if he were a horse.
Although still a bit confused, I find this amusing.