KANPUR: Popularly known as Khadhkda (horse drawn cart) in Jajmau area of Kanpur, it is still used for delivery of the tanned leather materials or its refuse to various locations. Though it was widely utilised in yester years in this area, its numbers and services have now shrunk with the rapid use of motorised vehicles on the road. But one thing is clear; this traditional carriage is entirely not out of service.
Passing through the city roads in various areas, one can easily find this old-styled horse-driven wooden structured carriage with big round wheels moving with the speed of the horse stamina. However, its owners do not hesitate to carry enough loads with varied items like PVC pipes, leather cuttings, full sized leather pieces, big round containers and etc.
A cart owner when questioned to tell on its nomenclature of khadkhada, he failed to answer the exact meaning of the specific name despite running the cart for the past several years in Jajmau area. His answer came like this: “I am totally unaware, Allah knows.” It was really a very surprising answer for those who appeared interested in understanding of how the name had originated. Still further, when another middle-aged cart owner was contacted, he also could not answer despite his experience of running this carriage for the past fifteen years.
Apart from them, the people maintained they stated there was a time when used to reach city areas by this carriage and never thought of its name. One person told when he came here there was available this mode and rode on it. Some maintained that as this horse driven carriage moved on the rough bumpy roads in different areas, the sound produced by its wheels’ friction would have caused its nomenclature and people started calling this cart by such odd name.
But like every mode of transportation, it could have some story behind its naming. Though we come to know of certain people who were famous after its name as we come across one popular name of Ghani Khadkhadawala. As we more often know of the Parsi community people who are known by their occupational trade, the aforementioned name has also associated with these carts somehow.
New generation did not know much about its naming; what they are conscious of its use as a delivery cart. An authentic account in regard to its naming is still a hard nut to crack because none comes forward in giving details. The poor cart owners are mostly illiterate. That’s why they remain totally unaware of its details and do not bother much about its naming.
Correctly, the Jajmau area was not so much populated and developed as we found its geography at present. This cart was mostly used for the leather goods delivery to various locations. People used to enter this area through Purani Chungi narrower road in yester years. The roads began to expand after the year 1992. With the establishment of KDA colony, the area got transformed by and by.
During those past days, these carts existed in abundance. Even people also used to enjoy its ride for reaching their respective destinations, as elders pointed out. When small-sized motorised carriages were brought on the road for the delivery service, these traditional horse carts began to lose its old days’ charm. With this change in delivery mode, these cartmen began to lose their income. Thus, its numbers started shrinking as a good-mannered lungi-clad cartwala running along Golf Course road in Cantt, revealed that its numbers had now relegated to about below a meagre 100 now.
He might be incorrect in his counting but in actuality, this horse drawn carriage seemed to be facing a tough competition from the Chinese E-rickshaw for its survival these days. These battery operated rickshaws also carry the same load as is borne by these horse-drawn Khadkhada.
On their meagre income at this time of inflation, the cartmen are not able to live comfortably. It is certainly they who how to pass days in such an insufficient income. With a heavy heart, one cart wallah pointed out that they are anyhow succeeded in saving a sum from Rs 200 to Rs 250 daily.
In the meantime, he also does not forget to describe the amount being spent on the horse fodder daily. “It comes to a sum of Rs 250 per day roughly while other maintenance also invites extra expenses which have to be paid from the scanty income,” he said.
Is there no other option for increasing income? On this query, the cartmen maintained that it was too tough for them to look for the motorised option in order to augment their income. They unanimously raised the query: Who will come forward to remove our poor condition? This is a question of responsibility for which the answer appears impossible.