Goodbye, Premier Padmini: Here’s What It Means For Gen Z And Taxi Owners

Goodbye, Premier Padmini: Here’s What It Means For Gen Z And Taxi Owners

Premier Padmini cabs had their last run on the roads recently

Maithili ChakravarthyUpdated: Saturday, November 04, 2023, 07:27 PM IST
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Padmini Taxis going off the road marks the end of an era. They have a history, as they are named after the Rajput queen of Mewar — Padmini. Imagine sitting in a Padmini, a car with great vintage value, taking a drive on Marine Drive. These cute little cars going off the road, after the double decker non-AC buses is certainly the end of an epoch.

Does Gen Z care?

A Gen Z may not feel the pinch as much, because he or she was, perhaps, not even thought of during the Padminis’ heyday. But these Fiat cars, certainly, stole our hearts. When we look at them, their great vintage value strikes us, given the current crop of Hyundais and WagonRs on the roads.

The Padminis had character. The owner of the last Padmini, Abdul Karim Karsekar, was emotional when he last rode his Padmini, on Sunday October 30th, 2023. He has already deregistered the car as a taxi, and now will see what he wants to do with his Padmini.

“As Gen Z, my first experience through the Bombay streets was while travelling in these black beauty Padmini taxis. I vividly remember when I asked the name of this vehicle, my dad told me these were Premier Padminis. Now I’m bidding adieu – it’s the end of a long ride. I view the end of this era with a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for these iconic cars. I also view the transition to newer and more technologically advanced taxis as a sign of progress and modernization in urban transportation,” shares 18-year-old Soumya Prabhu.

However, for 19-year-old BBA student Janvi Goenka, it doesn’t matter. “The fact that these taxis have gone off the road doesn’t make much of a difference to me, since I don’t remember them much. I haven’t travelled in any of them,” she says.

The true Kaali Peelis

When Mumbai loses a part of its history, people are bound to react. Why was the last Padmini taken off the road? That’s because it reached the limit of having completed 20 years on the roads. The owner of the last Padmini, Karsekar, has had a successful run with his car as it had paid for the education of his three sons. Today we see the roads full of Maruti Suzuki Dzires and Altos, Hyundais, and other cars, and somehow one feels that the charm of the Kaali Peelis has been lost, which the Padminis had.

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As of 1997, more than 60,000 Premier Padminis plied the roads but started to disappear thanks to the unavailability of spare parts. It’s certain that almost everyone has a memory in a Padmini. This four-seater saloon was manufactured in India from 1964 to 2001by Premier Automobiles Limited, a division of the Walchand Group, under licence from Fiat. It was initially marketed as Fiat 1100 Delight and from 1974 as Premier Padmini. Competing headlong with the Padmini was the Hindustan Ambassador. Padminis saw their peak during the 1970s and 80s. “For environmental considerations, it’s okay to phase out old cars. But some of those old cars should be preserved. We must keep those cars for viewing in a controlled environment, for the new generation to admire. They too should know what kind of cars existed in the past, shares Bharat Gothoskar, Founder of Khaki Heritage Foundation. “Tourists, especially Gen Z, should be able to interact with these models, in say a museum, perhaps even enjoy a short ride in them. These cars were part of our growing up lives. The general perception is that the government is good at scrapping things, but not so good at preserving and conserving them for posterity. But look at the tram displayed outside the CSMT station. So why can’t we have something for the Premier Padminis? A museum for their viewing is in order.”

Can we preserve them?

Adds Daniel Sequeira, owner of the Karfule heritage petrol pump in Ballard Estate, “It’s very sad that these cabs have gone off the roads. I wish the government would do something to keep the last two Padmini cabs on the roads. If that can’t be done, then these cabs can be displayed in a museum. Even if they could ply in a certain area, it would be nice. The tourism department should take charge. Everyone wants new things and so these cars have been pushed out. But the cars of today aren’t as durable at the Padminis.”

Shares Raees Ahmed, the owner of one of the last Padminis, “I’m stressed today. I have to buy a new car and convert it into a taxi. My Padmini is just standing now. I’m sure I won’t find another Padmini — a car as sturdy, durable, and enjoyable to drive like the Padmini. My Padmini didn’t need to repaired often, it did not get damaged easily, but one can’t say the same about the cars of today.”

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