An ode to the Indian Auto Rickshaw

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The Mexican Ambassador in her auto-rickshaw in India

The Mexican Ambassador in her auto rickshaw in India

The India Blog: Odd and Even, And Much, Much More

Having just returned from a month spent in India’s traffic chaos, I can attest to the disappearing road and the ever-increasing vehicles. There was a brief respite during Delhi’s odd and even traffic days when the load seemed to lighten considerably on the road. However, many of Delhi’s well-heeled with 2-4 cars were able to travel in style as they had cars with both odd and even license plates!

Now it’s business as usual, with many of the well-to-do horrified to take the metro – or God forbid – the lowly but efficient auto rickshaw. It’s just not done! Now comes a heroine of the road, Melba Pria, the Mexican ambassador to India, whose vehicle of choice is the humble phat-phatti or auto rickshaw. If a highly-placed diplomat can do it then why not our affluent Delhites?

It’s all about status and this ambassador shows it’s fine to arrive in a phat-phatti whereas other dignitaries may arrive in luxury black limos at five star hotels!  In fact, when the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs came to India, this auto rickshaw was his official car to visit the Indian Ministers!
Having used the talents of a Mexican artist to brighten up her auto, the Mexican ambassador also opens up the possibility of turning these ethnic contraptions into traveling art galleries which could beautify the environment and showcase India’s art.

Take a look at this video and see a possible solution to a swarm of cars on the road. The auto rickshaw is the democratic way to travel, used as it is by millions – and it is also environmentally friendly.  As Ambassador Pria observes, “You have to take your beliefs and value systems wherever you go.”

Why can’t the auto be fine-tuned, air-conditioned, made chic and elegant so that it becomes a coveted, cool ride? All it will take is for one noted Delhi socialite to take the plunge – and the rest will follow!

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Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

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