For someone with two cars, buying an autorickshaw wasn’t about a good bargain. Advertising professional and theatre personality Bharat Dabholkar, who bought a second-hand autorickshaw three years ago, has loved bikes since his days in college.
Auto man: Bharat Dabholkar’s Worli Davidson is a crowd-puller.
But he felt he needed something more convenient to carry his laptop and a dozen files. “Buying an auto was not about downsizing from a car, it was (about) upgrading from a bike,” says Dabholkar.
The basic structure cost him Rs17,000—bought second-hand from Goregaon in Mumbai. He put in another Rs15,000 to redo the rickshaw. He flattened the floor, put in more comfortable seats, changed the roof to acrylic and made the front glass area larger. He painted the vehicle silver, added two stylish exhaust pipes and pasted a sticker that says “Worli Davidson”—a parody on Harley Davidson and a tribute to Worli, where he once lived.
Though ideal for Mumbai’s narrow and crowded roads, Worli Davidson remains more of a quirk than a regular transport medium. Dabholkar can take the autorickshaw only to places where he is assured of private parking space. “If I park the auto in a public space, when I come back to it, I either find people sitting inside for shade or fiddling with it,” says Dabholkar.
The openness has its advantages. When Dabholkar takes out his eccentric possession, it tends to brighten Mumbai’s otherwise snarly traffic. “At every signal, people around me take photographs. I make at least 20 new friends each time I ride it.”
Dabholkar considers the three-wheeler to be the perfect option for middle-class private transport in India. It’s cheap, low-maintenance and safe.
But he admits people think of an autorickshaw as an oddity. It’s a simple mindblock, similar to equating a black and yellow car with a taxi. Dabholkar, who helped change the way we look at butter through the “utterly butterly” Amul advertisements, hopes his Worli Davidson will change the way we look at the three-wheeler.