Mumbai’s own art gallery inside kaali peelis | Bombay News

Mumbai They can make a fuss before agreeing to take you home tonight. But Mumbai taxis are moving. They are the subject of a unique photographic exhibition as far as Vevey, Switzerland. Nearly 60 images make up “What’s On Your Taxi’s Ceiling”, on the picturesque square of Place Scanavin during the biennial Images Vevey Festival which takes place throughout the month of September.

It’s street photography with a twist. Each image is taken inside one of Mumbai’s iconic kaalipeei taxis. Each depicts the patterned printed plastic tarp that taxi drivers typically install inside and on the ceiling of their vehicles as easy-to-clean protection.

The designs – fruit arrangements, ornamental flowers, geometric patterns, stars, stripes and confusing abstracts – are both beautiful and ridiculous. Try looking up in a dusty traffic jam and encountering a slice of papaya, a football explosion or a Mughal-jali filigree print above.

I’ve been taking taxis in Mumbai for decades, and like most people in Mumbai, I knew our kaalipeelis were decorated inside. But it wasn’t until 2017 that I thought about documenting each of the patterns, taking a selfie against a ceiling every time I took a turn. The images have accumulated over the years, creating a virtual repository of Mumbai’s own art gallery that was out in the open and in constant motion on the streets of our city.

My own collection includes over 580 unique images, which form a dedicated gallery, the largest of its kind, on Instagram at @TheGreaterBombay. I haven’t seen them all. It makes every ride an adventure – you never know the design of a cab’s ceiling (or if it’s just plain cladding) until you’ve sat inside and looked up.

In Vevey, the images, enlarged larger than life and displayed in the open air, seemed to be the ideal setting. Families, school visits, groups of friends and lonely but determined art lovers have strolled there but remained frozen. Switzerland, after all, has few taxis, all expensive and none decorated.

It took time for each of them to understand. But when they did, they let out an “Aah!” triumphant. He followed, without exception, with a smile. For a few seconds, the orderly, even-tempered and punctual Swiss were transported to Mumbai. Their world, where trains, trams, ferries and buses run like clockwork, had just given way to a bit of taxi drama. And my commutes, often made on the way to work or rushing for a date, felt a little less lonely.


    Rachel Lopez is a writer and editor at the Hindustan Times. She has worked with The Times Group, Time Out and Vogue and has a particular interest in the city’s history, culture, etymology, internet and society.
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