The tonga’s ride to the oblivion | Pakistan Today

The tonga’s ride to the oblivion

Rehman Ali’s source of livelihood is his horse and the tonga (cart). He has managed to educate all his 5 children through the income he earned by dropping and picking school children and later taking passengers from one part of the city to the other. That was before the ban.
Now, he can hardly provide for his wife and his youngest son who still lives with him.
“My father and his father both drove tongas all their lives. Back then, rich and poor both used tongas and there was no Defense or Gulberg. The world keeps closing in on the poor,” Ali said while talking to Pakistan Today.
Long before the British came, tongas were sub-continent’s most favoured mode of transportation. People from all classes and backgrounds owned and used horse-plied carts to travel and the decorations on the cart showed off the owner’s wealth for him.
The tongas even had a separate bazaar for the accessories. The bazaar, Sazaanwala, survives to this day, however, there are only a few shops left that serve the bazaar’s original purpose.
Before the ban and the restriction imposed by the government on their movement within the city, the number of tongas has decreased from thousands to a few hundred.
According to a historian Dr Nosheen Zahid, tonga walas usually gathered around the Lakshmi Chowk from where they were hired by people.
“Their use and importance decreased after the British came and introduced systems that increased the difference between social classes. That is when the rich started buying cars and hiring chauffeurs while the tongas were left for the poor,” she said.
“They formalised the use of tongas for the public by introducing uniforms for the drivers. That was not how things were done here. Tonga walas lived in the same areas as the passengers; they were not looked down upon. But this uniform culture subconsciously implied that they were different, they were ‘serving’ people and had to dress in a certain way so that they could be differentiated from the rest who owned cars, for example. That was not how the culture at that time worked,” she said.
“But thankfully, to this day the majority are still poor and that is why if you go to the Walled City or the Misri Shah or to Shahalmi and other so-called backward areas, you can still spot the tongas. But the fact remains that they will disappear if steps are not taken to protect those for whom they are the only source of income,” she said.
“I think if the government can patronise the use of tongas, we can actually have a very good pollution-free mode of transportation,” Momin Bashir, a student of Environment Studies said while taking to Pakistan Today, adding “Why not?”
“A better plan would be to reserve the area of the Walled City for tourists and tonga walas could drive the tourists through, stopping and showing them our city’s old buildings and other monuments,” he added.
“My friends and colleagues have suggested that I switch from a tonga to a Qingqi (motorcycle rickshaw) but I don’t think I can afford it. Plus what will become of my horse?” Ali said, adding that “the ones who have banned the tonga should have at least given us another option.”
“The roads are being constructed in a way that there is no place for slow vehicles. I do not think the cyclists can travel safely on our roads, let alone the tongas. It is a shame that we keep implementing ideas from abroad without pausing and thinking if they will be viable in our local setting,” said Areeb Ahmed, an urban developer.

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One Comment;

  1. Daddy said:

    If tongas disappear, what will happen to all the ppp workers? Besides sweeping bathrooms, this is about the only job they are qualified to do. By taking tongas away we'll be taking their livelyhood away. They will starve to death. On second thought, maybe we should let them all die. Pakistan will be better off without them. There is no place for stupid people in this world. They try to drag everything down to their level.

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