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Mumbaiwale: Ever noticed the ceiling of a kaalipeeli taxi?

Mumbai taxi interiors are covered in some of the most colourful and ridiculous designs. See where all those colourful and ridiculous designs come from

mumbai Updated: Feb 20, 2019 19:22 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
To see the world’s largest gallery of Mumbai taxi ceiling designs check out @TheGreaterBombay on Instagram.(Rachel Lopez )

The next time you get into a kaali-peeli Mumbai taxi and admire the printed interiors, think of Akbar Mohammad.

The Grant Road resident has been covering the grey insides of taxis with protective plastic or vinyl sheeting for more than 10 years. At his workshop in Agripada, close to Mumbai Central, he’s fit florals, fruits, abstracts, geometrics and crazy prints on to the ceilings and doors, turning the vehicles into mini galleries of kitschy pop art.

Akbar has been exceptionally busy over the last few years. As Premier Padmini cars are phased out and replaced with smaller, more fuel- efficient models like the Santro, Ritz and i-10, they bring their own set of teething troubles. “The ceilings have a soft felt-like fabric, which attracts dust and is hard to clean,” says Akbar. “Even the sides and doors end up getting grubby from use. Taxi drivers bring the cars to us for a full or partial cover job to minimise maintenance.”

Akbar’s assistants Mohammad Maqsood and Mohammad Shajaad (in pic) fit about 4 to 5 cars on a good day. “You need a gentle hand and strength for this job,” Shajaad says. ( Rachel Lopez )

That the covers are bright and colourful is a bonus. The sheets are made in China and sourced from Madanpura. Drivers choose designs from little swatches at Akbar’s garage, but often, they just let him decide. He ends up choosing from old-school smooth plastic or trendy textured rexine, depending on stock. “Red, pink and fuchsia are bestsellers,” Akbar says.

Fancy some florals on your ceiling? Akbar Mohammad’s garage has these popular designs inspired by William Morris patterns. ( Rachel Lopez )

Over the course of an evening, six metres of the fabric are hand-fitted into the cars, tufted with matching or clashing buttons. Drivers then decide if they also want seat upholstery, steering-wheel covers, dashboard decorations or any of the other frills from the vendors down the street.

Akbar is among four cover-fit specialists in Agripada. Taximen also frequent his counterparts in Sion Koliwada and on Kurla’s LBS Road. “When I do take a taxi, it’s usually to source fabric,” he says. “And I often check out the work on the cab. You can always tell a shoddy job from the way the material folds into corners and the haphazard arrangement of buttons.”

First Published: Feb 16, 2019 00:56 IST