March 10, 2015

Padmini, the queen of Mumbai cabs

by Anusha Narayanan

When you experience Mumbai for the first time as a new-comer or passing traveller, there are a few things that you can’t forget. One of these is a ride in a speeding black-and-yellow taxi, while you sit in the back, with your heart in your mouth.

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From the series ‘Goodbye Padmini’ © Aparna Jayakumar

The Premier Padmini, or the 1100D, as it was called by the Italian automobile company Fiat, will probably be taken off the roads of Mumbai by the end of this year. The rickety, old and squeaky Padmini taxi, which isn’t built as ideally for the comfort of a modern driver, with its colourfully decorated insides, posters of bollywood actresses, loud hypnotic patterns, torn seats and disco lights, has been the icon of a Mumbai cab for decades. Although today, not many prefer to step into one for fear of it falling apart, it is undeniable that the Padmini will leave behind hundreds of memories as it slowly vanishes from the city.

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From the series ‘Goodbye Padmini’ © Aparna Jayakumar

The first Padmini was brought to the roads of Mumbai in 1911, says Aparna Jayakumar, whose series Goodbye Padmini inspired our post. She first began shooting these taxis for a commissioned project – a book by an Italian publisher featuring the colourful 1100D in various locations, which included images of the taxis of Mumbai. The book didn’t see the light of day, but Aparna discovered the bigger story in the process. The government had issued a notice in 2008 that taxis older than 25 years must be officially removed from the streets. She spent three months in 2010, photographing the Padminis and their drivers, talking to union leaders and mechanics about their lives. She also discovered that the new vehicles recommended by the government to replace these Padminis were unaffordable for many drivers, making their survival in the expensive city, doubtful and precarious.

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From the series ‘Goodbye Padmini’ © Aparna Jayakumar

“Mumbai is a city full of immigrants, and cab drivers form a large portion of this. Photographing their habitats, listening to their stories and laments about the vanishing Padmini was a heart-wrenching experience,” Aparna says, “Some of them have to save every penny they earn and so, they live in 10×10 feet unkempt boxes or in slums, and sometimes sleep in shifts while sharing space with other drivers, so that they can send every penny home.”

There is a lot of romance that comes with old cars and how cities and countries associate with them. When the classic black Fairway taxis disappeared from the roads of London, many grieved for the iconic automobile; much like those who were upset when production of the Ambassador was halted.

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From the series ‘Goodbye Padmini’ © Aparna Jayakumar

In 2013, a law was passed by the government of Maharashtra stating that only the Padminis that were under 20-years-of-age could run on the roads legally. As these cars are slowly being phased out, the Padmini might find a spot in a museum soon. The sight of a Padmini takes me back to the year I was born, when my father bought our first car. Having grown up with one, the Padmini has always been a faithful companion, hard to drive, harder to part with. So the next time you get into an old, rusty cab, remember that it may soon become one of the many ghosts of Mumbai’s past.

Aparna Jayakumar is a Mumbai-based photographer whose work has been published in numerous national and international magazines and journals, including Kyoorius 14.  While she indulges herself in various genres, she categorises herself as a documentary photographer and maintains that her ‘first love’ is documentary and street photography. To see more of her work, visit her website.

(Cover photograph courtesy Tapan Basu.)hide ip program bestкак взломать чужую переписку в вквзлом страницы в одноклассниках форумпрограмма для чтения сообщений вконтактескачать бесплатно программу для взлома вконтакте

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