Tiruchy’s last generation of rickshaw pullers

Most of these rickshaw drivers are ardent fans of MGR, who played the tole of rickshaw driver in Rickshawkaran.
C Maiyappan aka Selvan with his cycle rickshaw in Gandhi Market | M K Ashok Kumar
C Maiyappan aka Selvan with his cycle rickshaw in Gandhi Market | M K Ashok Kumar

TIRUCHY: Almost 30 years ago, hundreds of cycle rickshaws could be found near the entrance to Gandhi Market. Now, there are about 20 cycle rickshaws and the drivers, mostly in their 60s, are struggling for survival.

“We get some customers as we can move around the congested streets of the market carrying goods, but most of us barely make Rs 200 a day. Many of us come to the market as this is the only place we get customers,” said S Basha, a 65-year-old rickshaw driver.

“I was selected as a worker in the Telephone department in 1982, but was unable to join as I had typhoid. Though I approached the department, they said they had appointed someone else. So, I started using my father’s cycle rickshaw to support my family. I tried my hand at several businesses and also drove an auto for some time to support the education of my children. Now, my son is an engineer. But due to some family issues, I am again back to Gandhi Market with my father’s rickshaw for survival. Many of these rickshaw drivers have a similar story and these senior citizens have on other option,” said C Maiyappan aka Selvan, a rickshaw driver.

Most of these rickshaw drivers are ardent fans of MGR, who played the tole of rickshaw driver in Rickshawkaran. Interestingly, the market also has a rickshaw driver known as Makkal Thilakam, MGR’s character in the film. “I am a fan of MGR, so I named my cart Makkal Thilakam. Later, people started addressing me as Makkal Thilakam and I prefer that name. Though only a few senior citizens like me use rickshaws, the government should take some measures to support us,” said Makkal Thilakam aka Aiyyanar.

Some rickshaw drivers are currently driving autos. “I drove a rickshaw for almost 15 years, but later I switched to an auto. Senior citizens who cannot afford autos continue to use rickshaws here. Most of these people would stop coming to the market after one or two years and cycle rickshaws would lose more customers,” said Murugandam (49), an auto driver.

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