Another driver, Sonam, says he has not had a single passenger for three days, and is struggling to pay his rent and feed his family. The situation was not so bad before the lockdown, as Basantapur still received tourists at the start of the year and some tourists were generous enough to part with a huge tip.
“Most of our customers used to be tourists, that is why we are having a hard time. If there were even a few local passengers at times like this, it would have been a little easier for us,” says Maila Lama, 58, who has been driving rickshaws for the past 25 years.
According to Lama, use of rickshaws by locals has gone down because more and more people in Kathmandu now own two-wheelers. Both Lama and Tamang concur that the popularity of ride-sharing apps like Tootle and Pathao has also affected their business.
“We don’t get as many local passengers like we used to because of Pathao. We normally charge around Rs100 for a ride from Durbar Square to Thamel. Pathao charges only Rs70,” says Tamang. “While their service is cheaper, we charge more because we have to put in physical effort.”
The sight of the brightly coloured three-wheelers staggering along Kathmandu’s bumpy roads started to become rare as the business took a back seat in recent years. Many rickshaw operators moved on to other businesses that promised better return for their labour.