They are a trailing relic of the past for a city itching to zoom into the future. Yet, tongas too define Delhi. A Delhi that exists beyond the mushrooming flyovers, malls and Metro stations. The Delhi of speedy facelifts and rapid urbanisation.
As the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) takes tongas off Delhi roads from Monday, city celebs recall some of their memorable tonga rides and tell HT City why sympathy for mute animals didn’t necessarily mean the end of history in the Capital.
“I remember when I would go for tonga rides on Sundays with my mother. I would cling on to mom and as the horse galloped we shrieked with excitement,” says singer Shibani Kashyap.
To emcee Shivani Pasrich, tongas always give a Cinderella-like feeling. “We friends would go for these rides and it would be so much fun. But it is time tongas are phased out. Though I love the horse taps, the whipping and branding of horses by tongawallahs pains me more.”
Chess champion Tania Sachdev has her share of tonga memories. “I was barely 12 and went to Chandni Chowk with my mother. I was fascinated to see the ‘chariots’ and boarded one. Those 5-7 minutes of ride were a very thrilling experience. I still remember the wind blowing on my face. It’s sad that we won’t get to see the tongas anymore, but I am happy for the animals.”
Artist Paresh Maity says, “Tonga rides are arty and romantic. Delhi is unique, and tongas is what defined it. If we have Mercedes on the broad roads, then we also have tongas with lanterns dangling on the same road.”
Alas... no longer.