The ‘Kaali-Peeli’ as we know it today, rattling along the city roads, was not always so rusty and worn out. Back in the 1980’s, owing to its beautiful and sleek design, the car inherited its name from the Princess of Chittor and became known as Premier Padmini, or ‘Pad’. It was the queen of the road, wooing the hearts of the rich and famous, thus becoming synonymous with luxury and grandeur at the time.
Today, as it hits the 20 year old marker, the recent government law demands its eradication. Consequently, with the Padmini’s numbers slowly waning on the roads of Mumbai, it quietly recedes into the memories of many.
One such person is fashion designer, Nimish Shah. “Being a Mumbaikar I feel so connected to the Padmini Taxi phenomena – I already knew what I wanted to do for my Taxi Fabric.” His design takes us back to the days where Padmini’s popularity was at its peak. The car boasted leather upholstery, an air-conditioning system, tinted glasses and courtesy lights. Nimish aimed to bring back the luxury tag attached to the Padmini. “It was about working backwards – pretty much cleaning up the canvas and offering a premium experience, rather than adding a shock value,” he explains. However, he feels such design sensibility is not appreciated as much in India. “People lack knowledge about good design – they often think it needs to have a sensational value,” he adds.
On the other hand, Nimish greatly appreciates the cultural and historical diversity that India has to offer. “It’s a Pandora’s box – open for several inspirations and interpretations.”
Hence, Nimish did not have to look far for inspiration. He found it towering amidst the sandy plains of Jodhpur. The stunning Umaid Bhavan Palace is a perfect example of mid-century design and tasteful interiors. Right from the Taxi’s tan and petro seats and the marble effect of the ceiling to the grid pattern on the windows, all the elements in the taxi relate back to the textures and stones found in the palace. Nimish plays with the stark contrast between the royalty of the palace and the common man’s vehicle, reflecting directly upon the juxtaposition of rich and poor in Mumbai. “The coexistence of affluence and street – that is Mumbai – where you see the most expensive homes and something as local as vadapav,” he says.
And just like that, Nimish’s ‘Padmini’, dressed in her royal costume, circling the potholed roads of Mumbai, is one of the most unique reflections of the city itself.
This Taxi Fabric Project is supported by Architectural Digest India