Featured photo courtesy of Martino’s doodle
Faruk arrived to the UK from Bangladesh about 5 years ago. He lives with his wife and he does an MBA course at LSE till September 2013. He has been a rickshaw driver for the past 2-3 years and says that it is hard work, especially in the winter, when there are not as many customers as in the summer. Faruk has to work 3-4 nights a week to make enough money to cover his basic expenses. He starts work around 11-12pm and finishes when there are no customers. He says,
“It’s about luck! It’s about how much the customers are willing to pay, how many customers, how short or long the distance, and if it rains or not.”
Faruk estimates there are about 150 rickshaw drivers in London. The majority are from Asia (Bangladesh and India), Europe (Poland, Germany, Spain) and South America (Colombia). Like Faruk, all drivers I spoke to one night said they like the flexibility of the job. For rickshaw drivers Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest nights. Some shifts are 1-2 hours, others are 5 hours long.
The British customers treat him fairly, but the tourists sometimes run away without paying. His customers are men and women who come out from or are looking for a night club. Usually, he approaches the customers by asking them if they look for a club. He deals with drunken people on a nightly basis, but they are not rude or abusive, except on occasions they run away. When that happens, he calls the police to report the crime.
Who is trustworthy?
I asked Faruk how he judges if his customers are likely to be dangerous or bad payers. He said, “I look at the face. The face tells a lot about the person.” He explains that once he saw a guy across the street from where we were, about 20 meters away. He said to himself:
‘That guy has a greedy face. When I approached him to ask if he wanted a ride the guy told me to get lost. You see, I was right this time.’
The money he makes covers some of his expenses, but only to survive. He covers his tuition fees with help from his family in Bangladesh and partly with money he earns from driving. The tuition fees are very high, he says. He tells me that, he could not survive on 20 hours a week from day jobs’ pay. Up to now, he could not find jobs in his field of business. As soon as he finishes the MBA, he will go back to Bangladesh where he will use his family connections to find a well paid job and wear suit and tie.
[h3] Real Discrimination[/h3]
Faruk thinks that the reason why so many migrants choose to do rickshaw driving is because they have no other choice. They cannot get jobs in other fields because no one wants to hire them. He says,
“There are three bloods. First blood are born British, second blood are migrants like himself and third blood migrants come from third-world countries. When there are job vacancies, the English will be offered first, despite the fact that migrants are as capable and dedicated as the English.”
Faruk says that:
“They will not give me a job if I compete with English. They will give it to them. That’s why I am doing this job at night. I have no choice. As soon as I finish my studies, I will be going back to my country.”