This city has a song. It reverberates from every street corner. “Pousse pousse pousse pousse pousse pousse”, the whole city seems to chant.
Pousse-pousse drivers whisper the song’s chorus at me when when I leave my hotel in the morning, from across the road where I buy my lunch, after I exit the grocery store. A thousand times a day.
The “pousse-pousse” is a human powered rickshaw and is the main form of transportation in Antsirabe. The owner of the guesthouse where I am staying tells me that there are more pousse-pousse in Antsirabe than there are people. I don’t think this can possibly be true, but some days it feels like it.
I arrived at the bus station in Antsirabe to a clamour of pousse-pousse drivers offering to transport me to my hotel. “It’s too far to walk”, they all advised me, authoritatively. Each offered a progressively lower price, while I hopefully surveyed the horizon for some kind of motorized transport. When none appeared, I climbed awkwardly into the pousse-pousse cart and arranged my bags around me. I immediately felt ridiculous, sitting in an ornate yellow cart with my huge backpack while a small man struggled to pull me into town. We moved extremely slowly and I realized that I could likely walk faster.
Despite my unease at being transported in this manner, people living in Antsirabe make wide use of the pousse-pousse. Although most of the drivers are tiny men who are not able to afford shoes, they are able to drag whole Malagasy families up and down the city streets, sometimes with astonishing speed.
I can’t bring myself to get into another pousse-pousse, so I have made up a second chorus to the pousse-pousse : “non, merci”.