MELAKA, July 5 (Bernama) — Weekend nights at Bandar Hilir Melaka exude an atmosphere of merriment, thanks to the hundreds of visitors from outside Melaka who congregate there.
The cacophony from the activities and traffic is drowned out, sometimes, by blaring music in numerous languages and genres from passing rickshaws.
The rickshaws, embellished with various motifs, and lit up grandly, are a statement of their owner’s creativity.
These rickshaws or trishaws, without the decorations seen on them today, were a ubiquitous mode of transport in towns in the 1960s and 1970s, and evoke nostalgic memories of a bygone era.
People recall the sight of rickshaw men on streets, using all their energy to pedal the three wheelers for a token sum. The impoverished rickshaw man was immortalised in the film ‘Penarik Beca’, with silver-screen legend, late Tan Sri P Ramlee, playing the role of a poor rickshaw man, Amran.
Nowadays, however, rickshaws only serve visitors who wish to experience the unique ride. The rickshaw owners of Bandar Hilir Melaka are eager to provide their passengers with the excitement of a ride.
WOMEN IN THE TRADE
Outside the Menara Taming Sari ground, a number of lit-up rickshaws wait in a line for passengers. One three wheeler stood out because of its rider.
Meet Nor Hasliza Hanafi, 20, one of the few women in the rickshaw trade, and among the increasing number of young people who are adopting a trade that is slowly disappearing.
What convinced Nor Hazliza, a former employee of Giat Mara, to adopt a trade most would shy away from?
“It is not because I had no other choice, but because I wanted it. As a rickshaw rider, I have the opportunity to met lots of people, including dignitaries like Melaka’s Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam.
“Here, I serve as a little ambassador, narrating the history of Melaka and the places I bring them to. Previously, I did not know much history, but after taking up this trade, I now have the history at my fingertips.
“I have met all sorts of people, and took the opportunity to promote Melaka to tourists. This is an honourable undertaking,” she told Bernama, recently.
NOTHING TO BE SHY ABOUT
The trade is not new to Nor Hazliza. Her father, too, was a rickshaw rider.
She recalled that, during her school days, her school-mates would to make fun of her father’s occupation, as it was associated with uneducated and marginalised people.
Nor Hazliza, however, finds the life of a rickshaw rider to be far better than people’s conceptions of it. Today, many graduates have adopted what was previously considered an unenviable vocation.
Most of these graduates, who have taken up the trade on a full-time or part-time basis, have at least one family member in the trade, already.
“Even I was embarrassed with my father’s occupation during my younger days. But after a meeting with the rickshaw riders, it dawned upon me that one can earn a living through this vocation as long as they are ready to work hard.
“That is when I made up my mind to stop work and take up the rickshaw trade. I have to admit that I was initially shy. But I overcame the apprehension over time.
“What’s more, there was a time when I earned up to RM1,000 a day due to my hard work,” she said proudly.
A one-hour ride from Taming Sari to Pokok Melaka, A Farmosa and Jonker Walk on the rickshaw costs RM40.
HURDLES FOR A WOMAN RIDER
However, a woman rickshaw-rider faces several challenges.
There is a general perception that it is unsafe for women to ride at night, and that they might not possess the physical strength to pedal a rickshaw.
Nor Hazliza, the second of four siblings, brushes aside these beliefs, saying her male counterparts never underestimated her ability, and even extended their cooperation.
In fact, rickshaw riders work together in a group to promote Melaka.
“Even passengers ask me whether I can endure (the effort) or not, but after seeing how far I could go, they don’t ask anymore questions.
“On the dangers, this work goes on till late hours, and I once stayed up until 1.30 am. So far, nothing bad had happened, except I was once shortchanged by a customer.
“I’m proud of what I’m doing. A living proof that women too can take up the rickshaw trade,” she said.
RICKSHAW RIDERS OF THE YOUNGER GENERATION
The growing number of young rickshaw riders today augurs well for this trade. Rickshaw riding was previously considered a vocation for the older generation, and it was feared that the trade would go extinct.
When questioned about young rickshaw riders, Nor Hasliza responded with a grin, “Yes, many youngsters are taking up the rickshaw trade, part-time of full-time, like me”.
“Now it is a trend. The youngest, 14 years old, maybe wants to help his father supplement the family income, after school.
“The way I see it, it is better for them to work as rickshaw riders, rather than loiter around. At least they can earn an income. I once advised a friend to stop loitering and work temporarily as a rickshaw rider before landing another job.
“In the end, he too ended up as a rickshaw man,” she said.
Another young rickshaw rider is Mohamad Hidier Abd Muttalib, 24, who has been in the trade for the last five years. He rides the rickshaw at night to supplement his income.
“During the day I work as a mechanic; at night I take up the rickshaw trade.”
RICKSHAWS TO STAY FOR GOOD
The president of the Kota Melaka Rickshaw Rider’s Association, Arman Saleh, said the participation of the younger generation bode well for this trade, and would keep it alive.
Welcoming this development, Arman said he hoped this vocation would keep young people away from social ills.
“Since the last three or four years, the younger generation has shown an interest in this trade. “At present, there are about 194 rickshaw riders in Melaka, with 80 to 90 of them being young men,” he said.
Article source: http://tourism-melaka.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default