Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Taxis, Trucks and Bajajs

I move surprisingly fast through a new part of the airport, which seems only half-completed. Greeted like some visiting celeb, the Oberoi representative escorts me to the waiting driver.

Last time I was here I was driven to the hotel in a 1950s model Austin Cambridge – known as an Ambassador here – which at the time were still being churned out by Hindustan Motors.

the-ambassadors-legendary-grille.jpg
(Click on the image to enlarge.)

This time, it’s a Ford Mondeo. I think I prefer the Austin, but that’s probably because of the name.

They say that the floorplate of a Jaguar S-Type is the same as that of the Mondeo: well not this Mondeo, I can tell you. Built in Chennai, they’ve shrunk this version of Britain’s most popular corporate car to fit Indians.

Leaving the airport, you’re straight into the bustling suburbs – there’s no trunk road, or expressway. The congestion provides plenty of time to study the various vehicles competing for space along roads narrowed by the ebb and flow of humanity.The taxis are ludicrously funny – so small that I expect to see Noddy driving one. Click here for a glimpse of what I mean:

mumbai-taxi.jpg

And when was the last time you saw white-walled tyres? Most of these black-and-yellow Fiats are covered in elaborate stickers, including those stuck across their rear windows, restricting vision. Horses, spoked wheels, Hindu idols, star shapes and words such as “Bandra” are displayed: I also see “Don”, “Happy Journey” and “Welcome”. One is even adorned with the Nike tickmark, for whatever reason.

The gaily-painted trucks we pass carry descriptions of what they do: “Goods Carrier” seems a favourite, generally plastered somewhere across the front of each vehicle. I see a flatbed truck carrying urns that has the words “Milk Wagon” painted on its sides. Across its tail-end, along with the now familiar “Horn OK Please”, I read the words “India Is Great.”

There seems to be a road safety campaign going on, targeting the “scooterists”. I get a crinkly mouth when reading the campaign slogan: “Helmet or Hell Met.”

An advert on a hoarding also catches my eye: “United Bank. The Bank That Starts With U.” I am beginning to recall the wit and wordplay of the Indians I associated with here when visiting on a regular basis, back in the late 1980s.

Unlike Jakarta, where I lived for a while, the Bajajs of Mumbai are all painted black and yellow:

bajaj.jpg

In the Indonesian capital they were a rusty orange colour. Here, they also seem to have fully-functioning meters, but no doors – further differences.

Meanwhile, the cacophony of hooters is incessant. Don’t these people realise that sound is a form of energy, and that energy consumes fuel?

posted by Kirk at 9:24 pm  

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