A Lost Love Affair With Kaali Peeli

Long before Uber and Ola choked the already congested Mumbai roads, it was the kaali peeli that ferried passengers from Churchgate to Nariman Point and Sion to Colaba. The iconic Mumbai taxi is as much a symbol of Mumbai as vada pav and Gateway of India. Started operating in 1910s, they were brought in to replace the horse driven Victoria or buggies. The very first cabs to be introduced were Chevrolet and Plymouth models, which were followed by Hillman Minx, Morris Minor and our very own desi Ambassador. In the late 60s, the Premier Padmini by Fiat entered the Mumbai taxi market and ruled the Mumbai roads for more than three decades.
If you have stayed in Mumbai or even visited it once, it’s nearly impossible to have not sat in one of these rickety wagons with torn colourful seat covers, wobbly door handles and overpowering smell of stale sweat. It is difficult not to be drawn in by the old-world charm these taxis offer.
This once ubiquitous taxi was such an integral part of the Mumbai of yore, that it has been glorified in various Bollywood movies. From as early as 1954 where Dev Anand played a young taxi driver in ‘Taxi Driver’ to ‘Gaman’ which showed a young migrant from Uttar Pradesh Farooque Shaikh adopting Mumbai by learning to drive a taxi and the feel-good ‘Taxi Taxie’ where Amol Palekar plays a good hearted taxi driver. And, the most recent kaali peeli outing has been in Nana Patekar’s and John Abraham’s Taxi No. 9211 which showcased the Fiat Padmini in all its resplendent glory.
These beauties have been replaced by better looking and more fuel efficient Santros and Wagon-Rs, and there are only a few hundreds of Premier Padminis left in the city today. So, if you get an opportunity of a joy ride in this Mumbai icon, don’t miss it!

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