I had made reservations to stay at Hotel Ginger, which was right by the New Delhi train station. From my two previous experiences with Ginger at two other cities, I was confident that I could count on a clean and spacious room, with clean bathrooms. All for a price that the budget traveler that I am can afford.
The hotel website said it was a 200 meter walk from the station to the hotel. I told my friend "S" about it. She was familiar with the hotel, and had a suggestion: "as you exit the station, get a cycle-rickshaw. He might ask for about 30 rupees. It will be better than you walking, because you won't be able to drag your suitcase through all that dirt."
It was a wonderful and practical suggestion, I thought.
... I had to face the situation at 2:30 in the afternoon after I was swept out of the station by the exiting crowds.
I couldn't think of sitting there while another human pedaled away. When machines power an autorickshaw or a car, it feels different from when a human powers the transport.
"Holy crap!" I thought to myself.
Meanwhile, my brain also recognizes the numbers of cycle-rickshaws there. Their livelihood, and perhaps their families' welfare, depends on people like me using their services.
If only I had a 1-800-ethicist to call to sort this out!
Finally, I decided to look strictly from the driver's perspective. Like somebody digging ditches with his muscle power in order to earn his parathas, a cycle-rickshaw driver trades his muscle power for earnings. In my job, I try to use my brain power to earn my salary. So, what if I focused only on the dignity of the labor involved and the laborer?
I approached a driver. Pointing to the hotel, I told him in my awful Hindi, "humko woh Hotel Ginger jaana. Kitne rupiah?"
He replied "Ththeese."
"S" was so right on the dot with her thirty rupees.
A little uncomfortably I sat on the seat, and he pedaled away.
When we reached the hotel, he stopped outside the gate. I figured that the hotel didn't want cycle-rickshaws inside the property, and I didn't want to force any issue there. I got down and paid him 30 rupees.
And then I remembered another instance from a few years ago when I was traveling with my parents. As we got off the train, dad looked around for a porter. I told him that I would easily carry the bags. Dad said it was his way of helping them out--the porters needed to earn money, he said. So, we ended up hiring one.
I thought that I needed to spend the little bit of money I had, which will mean a lot to the rickshaw-wallahs. When the next guy approached me, I told him "Hotel Ginger, station ke paas." He wanted 50 rupees.
I sat while he pedaled away., and decided that I would ignore my own issues with hiring cycle-rickshaws! Or, perhaps what I ended up doing is the right way after all.