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Irrational hatred of...
By Jeff Dell
I don't like rickshaws and I don't like dogs. This is about rickshaws, though I might slip in a barbed remark about dogs if I can find an angle. It's uncool to hate rickshaws, which is partly why I feel compelled to hate them. They're cheap, they offer oodles of employment to people who wouldn't otherwise have it, they don't pollute the air with lead and unlike policemen they're always there whether you want one or not. The line on rickshaws from rickshaw aficionados, and those expats who want to be good eggs by not having a critical view of anything outside their own country, is that they are a cornerstone of Bangladeshi popular culture. This sort of stuff is enough to make me gag. A what? I like icons. What would a day be like without smashing at least one?

Rickshaws are dangerous overgrown bicycles - a sort of Woolworth's handbag having sex with a rabbit hutch over a child's geometry set. They are ridden by the criminally disenfranchised and patronized by the poor, the desperate and romantic expatriates. They have greasy over-padded plastic back seats propped up at the perfect angle to turn you into a human rocket the moment a car rams into you from behind, and they are so over-painted you'd think they'd been created for a pimp's pantomime. And such is the human effort in keeping one on the road, it takes two men on a shift basis - one in the morning and the other in the afternoon - to run one. The money's not bad - two men will earn 6,000 Taka each per month, which is about 75 Pounds. It sends both drivers to an early grave - if they live long enough to die of exhaustion that is, and they're all over Dhaka City like a rash.

One evening, as if to test the theory of jet propulsion, and by way of an astonishing piece of reckless driving, my wife caused one to crash into a car. The impact sent all its occupants into human ballistic missiles, firing past our car and into the darkness beyond. We could tell from the muffled groans that they were well. We did what one does. We said "Whhhooooo, wild!".

I once saw a dog in a rickshaw and it looked perfectly at ease.