ON MARCH 2, security officers at Parliament House came across an unusual situation. Outside the main gate was an autorickshaw, painted white, bearing a diplomatic number plate and flying the flag of Mexico. The driver was wearing a suit and the passenger was Mexican Ambassador Melba Pria.
They finally let the auto in, but only after frantic consultations with senior officials, and only up to the parking lot, away from the main building.
But Ambassador Pria is unfazed. For the last three months, she has been travelling across Delhi to attend meetings on this three-wheeler, with the registration number ending with 1A that marks it as her official vehicle.
She even rode the autorickshaw to the Ministry of External Affairs at South Block recently to meet Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu. “I love this form of transport. When our Foreign Minister arrived in India, we left the MEA in it. I believe it’s also a wonderful way to promote our beautiful country,” Pria told The Indian Express.
“I consider the autorickshaw as a most efficient means of transport. In fact, it’s what most people in Delhi travel in, so I reasoned why not me… I used the autorickshaw to meet the CEO of Rajya Sabha TV and we were stopped at the gate. Apparently, three-wheelers are not allowed inside,” she said, referring to her Parliament House visit.
The autorickshaw occupies pride of place at Pria’s Embassy in Anand Niketan, with a vivid floral design on the canvas top painted by Mexican street artist Senkoe who was in Delhi for the Street Art Festival, the flag fluttering above the indicator and the country’s name emblazoned across the metal fenders.
Pria says painting and remodelling the autorickshaw took less than a week, although the process of buying one was considerably longer. “We had to select the model and then file papers with the MEA for diplomatic plates. The process took more than a month to complete,” she said.
Her suited chauffeur is Rajendra Kumar, from Uttar Pradesh, who joined the embassy in 2009 as a driver. “Honestly, I had never driven an autorickshaw before this and it took me a week or so to get used to it. It’s definitely not as easy as Delhi’s auto drivers make it look,” Kumar said.
The Mexican Ambassador, of course, has been known to take the road less travelled, telling The Indian Express in December that she cycles at least 50 km on most days to stay fit.