Beauty in the breakdowns and the accidents

by Kim on January 26, 2013 · 31 comments

So, I crashed the rickshaw, but just barely.

It happened in Udaipur. We’d arrived in the early afternoon, hoping to find a guesthouse and settle down for sixteen whole hours after 4 days of driving on India’s maniacal roads.

I’d managed to weave us through the city traffic, winding along tiny alleyways best suited for walkers and cows. We’d ended up at a lakeside overlook with a view of the Taj Lake Palace. The hotel was a stunning sight, but it’s not like we could sleep there.

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

Taj Lake Palace

So we flagged down a rickshaw driver and asked him to lead us to more affordable digs. He nodded enthusiastically then took off like his ass was on fire. I set to chasing after him, driving much too fast in order to keep up.

Which is how I clipped a motorcycle. A parked motorcycle. Our rick made a terrible crunching sound as I sideswiped the bike. I hit the breaks, blocking traffic, screaming “Oh shit. Oh shit. OH SHIT” and envisioning scenes from Shantaram where those responsible for traffic accidents are promptly pulled from their vehicles and beaten.

I sat in the driver’s seat cussing, waiting for an angry mob to descend.

Sarah jumped from the rickshaw to check the damage and returned with the news that the accident had sounded worse than it actually was. The motorcycle was fine, she assured me, and our rickshaw was undamaged too.

So I drove away. Quickly. Because not only had I just crashed a bright-orange, flower-clad rickshaw into somebody’s motorcycle, but I’d done so without carrying my International driver’s license or my Oregon driver’s license, both of which I’d managed to leave in Brian’s backpack before we parted ways in Jaisalmer.

It was a few hours later that Sarah realized she couldn’t find her phone. Losing an expensive phone is a pity under any circumstance, but a flat-out emergency given our current state. We’d been using the GPS on that phone to find our way around India. Without it, we were pretty sure we’d end up in Pakistan or, at the very least, crying on the side of the road as we tried to navigate the chaotic madness of every Indian city.

GPS, India rickshaw run

GPS, oh how I love thee

We tore through our bags and scoured the rick but the phone had disappeared.

The only thing I can think is that the phone fell off of my lap when I got out to check the damage on that motorcycle.” Sarah said.

Hannah suggested we return to the scene of the crime. “Maybe the phone’s still there?” she said.

I’ll go with you,” I told her, but inside my head I quipped: ‘There’s not a chance in hell we’ll find that phone.’

So we searched the area where Sarah suspected the phone had gone missing but found nothing. No phone, smashed or otherwise, graced the shit-strewn, crowded, street.

The streets of Udaipur, India

The streets of Udaipur, India

Because, really, even if the phone had slipped out of the rickshaw, what were the chances it had survived the fall? And even if it had survived the fall, what would one do upon finding it? It’s not like we could be tracked down to have the phone returned to us. Besides, the phone cost $400, more money than many Indians make in a month. Finding that phone was like finding gold.

But just to cover our bases, we asked a shopkeeper if anyone had turned in a phone. “No, no, not to me,” he said. “Were you here earlier, in an orange rickshaw?”

Yes, that was us,” we nodded in affirmation.

He pointed across the street. “Go, to the police station, I think someone put a phone there.”

“That’s the police station?,” we asked, turning towards a non-descript building.

Yes, that’s it,” the man said, wagging his head up and down.

Hannah shrugged. “It’s worth a shot.”  We thanked the man and walked inside.

Six policemen eyed us. Piles of paper as high as my waist sat stacked on every surface, nary a computer in sight.

What is your purpose here?” asked a man behind a desk and Hannah launched in to our story, explaining about the phone.

The men spoke to each other in rapid-fire Hindi. “Is it a Motorola phone?” asked the stone-faced desk-man.

Yes, it’s black,” we nodded like toddlers.

Go next door,” he barked, and the other men looked on skeptically.

Next door we sat and Hannah explained the whole story again. Again, we were asked to describe the phone. Again, the officers discussed amongst themselves. Again, we were sent next door, back to where we’d come from.

Why does it seem like they don’t want to give us the phone?,” asked Hannah.

I was afraid I knew why. I’d hit a motorcycle and driven away. The shopkeeper was a witness and reported it to the police. I’d stumbled like a moron right into the crocodile’s mouth. No one had our phone. This was a ploy to arrest me.

Back in room one the men made phone calls and talked in hushed voices to each other. Hannah and I sat in silence, our hands folded neatly in our laps. I was trying to figure my next move. It was probably too late to escape, but maybe I could bribe them?

The door to the station opened and two policemen walked in holding hands, a habit that always disarms me. Behind them followed a tiny old man in a brown sweater. In his hand he held Sarah’s phone.

An officer explained that this man had witnessed the accident and had seen the phone fall out of our rickshaw. He’d tried to return it but we’d sped away too quickly. He’d left his number with the police in case we returned to fetch it.

Hannah and I jumped up, clapping, and thanked the man profusely. He handed the phone to us and we cheered, and then the whole room of stern-faced policemen cheered with us, smiling and wobbling their heads.

Hannah and I walked back to our guesthouse, I clutched the phone in my hand.  Bells chimed from a nearby temple and a call to prayer echoed over the city. I was still a free woman, feeling freer every day.

Cow in Udaipur

As free as the cows in India

Click here to read all of my posts from the Rickshaw Run.



{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmel January 26, 2013 at 10:00 am

Oh Kim….
You crack me up.


Kim January 26, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Hehe, glad it was good for a laugh. I was sweating it at the time!


Tracy January 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

‘As free as the cows in India’ You can’t get much more free than that!


Kim January 26, 2013 at 11:43 pm

That’s the truth!


Aurora January 26, 2013 at 11:36 am

Yep, sounds about right for India.

And the handholding always cracked me up…. reminds me of the time I was on a train with a bunch of Indian body-builders — and they were all holding hands and arms around each other. awesome.


Kim January 26, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Haha, I know, just so different than what we are used to.


Rhonda January 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Lol… your first international driving incident! The handholding was always a bit interesting to me too. I guess we Americans are just too uptight! lol


Kim January 26, 2013 at 11:44 pm

We are! Hopefully that was my first and last international driving incident!


Sherell January 27, 2013 at 7:17 am

Goes to show not everyone wants a $400 phone!!

Someone stole my $300 phone right here in the good ole USA, where the phone could have been had for “free” with a new cell phone plan!!


Kim January 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Yep, we got lucky I suppose. But I also think that was a good man who did the right thing!


Sarah Somewhere January 27, 2013 at 7:22 am

Ha! I found this so interesting because I’ve just spent the last two days writing about the same incident! Damn you Dinan! 😉


Kim January 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Whaa haha. I beat you to it! Write about it anyway, I’m excited to hear your perspective.


Steve C January 27, 2013 at 10:58 am

Kim, you kept me in suspense ’til the end. Great writing. But there’s more than just this story of great relief. It’s of a typical poor Indian returning your phone. How many times would that happen in the US? Also, how many times would you get away with a hit and run right across the street from the police station with them knowing who did it? And they didn’t even want to look at your drivers license either!

You haven’t mentioned if you have given any rewards (baksheesh)to either this man who gave you your phone back or the guy in the village who provided you with three beds, then slept with you to protect you through the night. With all the Indian rape news lately, that was worth a fortune.

Also, I got a kick out of the picture of the Lake Palace in Udaipur. We spend Christmas day on the island hoping to have a nice Christmas dinner. It was so expensive that we passed and just sat on the terrace and had a very expensive cocktail and wrote in our journals. I noticed that the trees on that island are much much larger now then they were 25 years ago. But, I guess, I’m now much larger too! lol


Kim January 27, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Yes, I was hoping that that part of the story would present itself even though I wasn’t making a big deal of it. We were awed that this man returned the phone because we both agreed that if this had happened in our own countries the chances of seeing that phone again would have been small. And, I know!!! to all of it. The hit and run in front of the police station, the not asking for our license/ID. The whole thing was just unreal!!

As far as rewards go, we did pay for the meal and the place to sleep at the restaurant in the last story (though he refused any kind of tip). The did not tip the man who returned the phone because everything happened so quickly and we just didn’t think about it until it was too late.


Vixki - Way Out Far January 27, 2013 at 11:46 am

Oh I love your writing – you really tell a great story!

Me and my husband did the Rickshaw Run last year and I cannot agree enough that GPS was a *godsend*


Kim January 27, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Thanks so much Vixki!

I don’t know how anyone does the Rickshaw Run without a GPS. I know some teams do it, but I’m still blown away that they do.


Enid Beard January 27, 2013 at 3:39 pm

As I was reading your story, I was scared for you. What an amazing read and so relieved that everything turned out for the best. I would’nt have believed you’d find your phone though. Love the pictures. Safe journey for you and Brian.


Kim January 27, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Thanks Enid, I was scared for me too! And still can’t believe the phone was returned. Thanks so much for following along 🙂


Therese January 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm

What a great story! What are the chances you’d have found it like you did?!! 🙂 🙂


Kim January 27, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I know, right? It was really such a surprise.


Sofie January 27, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Striking that in a country where people own so much less than we do, something with such a high price card is returned without a doubt, while in a lot of Western countries…


Kim January 29, 2013 at 12:15 am

Yes, exactly, it was just one more “coincidence” that we just couldn’t believe. The people of India have continued to dumbfound me in the most beautiful way.


Hannah January 29, 2013 at 12:29 am

I still can’t believe this is all true, even though I was right there with you! The kindness of the Indian people will never cease to amaze me. I loved the way you told this story, and feel so happy to have shared it with you 🙂


Kim January 29, 2013 at 6:52 am

I know, right? We couldn’t make that shit up if we tried!


OurLifeExperiments January 29, 2013 at 6:09 am


I would have freaked out if we’d lost our GPS phone while driving around the US with our truck and travel trailer, let along driving a rickshaw in India! You guys are so brave! This story just reminds me how there is so much good in the world. Thank you for sharing!



Kim January 29, 2013 at 6:53 am

Oh, losing the GPS would have added a whole other element to the adventure. I’m so glad we didn’t have to go there. You’re right, there is so much good in the world and we got to experience so much of it during our rickshaw run.


Manos from Naxos January 29, 2013 at 9:47 am

Hello from a newbie at your blog! 🙂 Wonderful story Kim, with a good ending…


Kim February 5, 2013 at 12:10 am

Hello and welcome! So happy to have you following along.


vanvliet October 15, 2013 at 2:41 am

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