In the midst of the chaos and honking(and cursing)in Mumbai traffic, the sight of the familiar black and yellows with their multitude of typography, quirky geometric patterns with gods and bollywood all rolled into one, for me the taxicab of the city is one of its primary icons.
Our classic premier padmini taxicab has now rolled into retirement since 2008 with the government legislation banning all cabs above 25 years from the city’s streets. Even the newest cab is a decade old. Based on a small fiat sedan from the 60’s the padmini was names after a Rajput princess known for her beauty and courage.
Though synonymous with Mumbai, the taxicab means different things for different people. For first timers like Bharath who visited Mumbai in 2005, the cab which swung from left to right sometimes without even stopping for a traffic light, bumping into each other without checking for damage, him profusely sweating in the velvet covered seats at the back it was his first ‘glimpse’ into Mumbai.
Many dents cover the metal body and one can hear the characteristic diesel clatter as it waits at a traffic light, wheezing sounds emanating from the engine as it touches 60kmph on the expressway; it is almost as if the cab is held together by hope or sheer will.
For me the taxicab and the anonymous taxi driver go hand in hand. He is privy to the hopes, dreams and disappointments of Mumbai’s people as lives are played out in his backseat.
Mumbai will never be the same without these great urban art forms.