© Aparna Jayakumar from "Goodbye Padmini", 2013

Aparna Jayakumar: Goodbye Padmini

Aparna Jayakumar (India) – Goodbye Padmini,  An Ode To Bombay’s Black-and-yellow Padmini Taxis

Gallery offline – updating soon

Bombay’s ubiquitous black and yellow taxi is an iconic image of the city. The 1100D, or the ‘Premier Padmini’ as it is called here, was originally manufactured in India between 1964 and 2000 by the Italian company, Fiat. The charm of the Padmini taxi is unique, with its disco-lights, over the top interiors, flowers and incense sticks, brightly coloured seat covers, zany taxi art and icons of various Gods, or Bollywood stars (or both side by side). There is much old-world romance associated with these sleek black and yellow wheels. They are an inextricable part of the Bombay experience.

Bombay’s taxis turned 100 in 2011. Motorized cabs replaced the horse-driven Victoria buggies in 1911 and have been serving the city ever since. But instead of celebrating, Bombay’s taxi drivers have had much to worry about. The number of taxis plying the streets is in steady decline. In 1997, Bombay had over 60,000 taxis to cater to a population of 8 million. Today Bombay’s population is well over 20 million but there are only around 40,000 cabs.

The black and yellow taxi is the primary source of living for thousands of immigrants from different parts of the country who come to Bombay in search of a better life. In 2008, the court ordered the “phasing out” of taxis older than 25 years. Several thousands of Padmini taxis have been destroyed ever since. The new transport minister of the state has indicated that the present fleet of black and yellow taxis be replaced by new, high-end cars, leaving many taxi drivers worried for their livelihood.

Through the taxis, I want to tell the story of Bombay (now Mumbai) – a city in flux, constantly moving, rapidly changing, ever ready to throw out the old and embrace the new. This kind of disparity exists in other cities of the world too, but it is at its most vulgar best in Mumbai.

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