Monday, December 31, 2007

43TK = S$1

Or This morning I made myself two half-boiled eggs and the taste was closest I got to home since I got here. Not even my Ramen noodles invoked the same sensation. I suppose there's something about black sauce, a mountain of pepper and eggy goo that strikes deep.

This morning I paid my rickshaw wallah 15 takas to cycle me from my house to my office. I would say that would be a locally-acceptable rate, although some may argue 12 would have sufficed. I generally judge how acceptable the payment is based on my rickshaw wallah's face after I've handed it to him.

The locals haggle and deal before getting on the rickshaw. I don't bother because I never win and it takes too much out of me. So I just pay what I gauge would be a price that would make them happy enough not to ask for more.

Sometimes I gauge wrongly and they look at me slightly sorrowfully with their palms outstretched, refusing to pocket my money. I ask them, not enough? And I give more. Sometimes they ask for a lot more, by which I mean asking for 25 taka for something that is usually 15. Sometimes they yell at me even though I've given a reasonable amount, which usually pisses me off and makes me not want to give them more.

I've seen some wallahs get beaten on the back and the legs by policemen wielding unprofessional wooden sticks, trying to herd them back behind an imaginary line. I've seen wallahs get their rickshaws thrown up and over because they crossed imaginary lines. I've seen too many of them getting yelled at by their passengers (then again, it could've been conversation since I don't understand the words exchanged). I've heard of cases of people running off without paying. I have also heard many singing as they cycled, chatting to each other and exchanging friendly taunts and dishing out helpful advice (you go first, quick quick, ok move in front of me here). Some make snarky comments about passing vehicles. Others try to tell me jokes I can't understand. I've had one hold my ankle the entire ride begging me to give him money for his family. Some chat and complain to me when we are stuck in a jam and we heckle at the big cars together. Some question my rickshaw wallah about where he picked me up from. Others don't say a word.

And so this morning I paid my rickshaw wallah 15 takas. What does this mean?