A push in the right direction

Pushcarts have become a popular mode of transportation for tourists in Murree.

Until 1947, the Mall Road in Murree was restricted by the British for natives or non-Europeans. Today, it’s hard to spot a European but the place is bustling with local tourists who provide a market for enterprising ventures. One such example is the pushcart service, popularly known as ‘bacha gari’ (children’s car), which was initially introduced on Mall Road as an attraction for children but is now a preferred mode of transportation among tourists of all ages.

(Below) The service can be availed at any time during the day, even late in the evenings. PHOTOS: DANIAL SHAH

“I came to Murree to find work 10 years ago. [Although] my hometown is [also] full of green mountains, it’s hard to find work there,” says Zahir Shah from Dir, Swat. He now earns a stable income with the help of his pushcart, transporting people who prefer the ride over walking up the steep hill.

The carts are built in Rawalpindi and cost around Rs12,000 to Rs15,000 each. Each iron cart consists of two seats, with leg space in between, and can easily accommodate four children or two adults, depending on their weight. To make them look more appealing and noticeable, they are painted in an array of colours and decorated with reflective stickers. “I bought mine for Rs4,000 a long time ago. The demand for it is now shooting up and so are the prices,” says Shah.

To attract customers, especially children, the pushcarts are painted in bright colours and decorated with reflective stickers. PHOTOS: DANIAL SHAH

Since Mall Road is teeming with potential customers, the men start their service early in the morning and continue late into the evening. “Most of my customers are children, women or senior citizens who prefer this facility,” says Altaf Hussain from Chilas, who has been running the service for seven years now. Charges for the ride vary according to the length of the route and the time duration for which it is hired. On an average, the men make Rs500 per day, and on busy days around Rs1,200, which is barely enough to pay the rent for a room which is often shared by five men to cut costs.

(Above) The service that was initially introduced for children is now availed by customers of all ages, especially those who wish to avoid the steep walk up the hill.  PHOTOS: DANIAL SHAH

In an attempt to control the Mall Road traffic, however, one has to first obtain a permit from the Cantonment Board to run the service, which costs Rs2,000 for a six-month duration. But the vendors claim that this is a small price to pay as they can easily cover the cost in approximately four days of service.

The Mall Road in Murree is a popular tourist destination for locals which attracts men from surrounding areas to earn a livelihood though unusual means. PHOTOS: DANIAL SHAH

(Above) With no reported health problems associated with the service, even older men pushcarts to earn a livelihood.  PHOTOS: DANIAL SHAH

(Below) During off seasons, customers are hard to come by and the men fail to even meet their average daily income of Rs500. PHOTOS: DANIAL SHAH

The Mall Road in Murree is a popular tourist destination for locals which attracts men from surrounding areas to earn a livelihood though unusual means. PHOTOS: DANIAL SHAH

Danial Shah is a travel writer and a photographer. He tweets @DanialShah_ 

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 17th,  2014.


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