Delhiwale: Trotting down memory lane | delhi news | Hindustan Times
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Delhiwale: Trotting down memory lane

In 2011 MCD banned tongas in Delhi bringing the curtains down on a world of moody mares, swinging carts and clip-clop of hooves.

delhi Updated: Jul 17, 2017 11:03 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Until a few years ago, tongas were as common as rickshaws in Delhi.
Until a few years ago, tongas were as common as rickshaws in Delhi. (Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

At least a dozen people are seated on the orange tonga. Most of them are women and children. The white horse is quiet.

One white-hot afternoon, we come across a horse-driven carriage just outside Zakir Husain Delhi College on Jawaharlal Nehru Marg.

Until a few years ago, tongas were as common as rickshaws in our city. For instance, they regularly plied between the Old Delhi railway station and the New Delhi railway station. The clip-clop sound of the hooves used to be an integral part of the city’s traffic sounds.

Once we took our first (and only) tonga ride in a shared tonga from one station to the other. Like in the magical world of Harry Potter, the tonga trotted on giving an illusion of poles, trees and houses hopping aside to clear the way for the moody mare to chart her own course. It jolted passengers, splashing over puddles, overtaking buses, getting honked at by SUVs and jumping traffic lights.

That world ended in 2011 when the MCD banned the tongas to ease traffic.

Sighting a tonga is rare these days. The passengers of this tonga do not seem to be excited about the extinct mode of transport. They are behaving as if they are trying to fit inside just another family car. It turns out that it is their private tonga. One of the women, who calls herself Rashida Bibi, says they live in Mirdard Basti and are going for a picnic to Rajghat.

Finally, all are settled — one woman is seated on the footrest. The tonga walla raises a cry. The quiet white horse begins to move. That old clip-clop sound can be heard again.