(Written by Prasad Bhopale)
In a one-of-its-kind fashion show, the models strutting about for the cameras and admiring looks will be rickshaws. The Pune Rickshaw Fashion Show turns 10 on Republic Day and the line-up is expected to boast beauties in accessories such as fancy sunshades, creative hoods and snazzy interiors. “The objective is not only to recognise the aesthetic sensibilities of rickshaw drivers, but also to honour them on their customer orientation and overall maintenance,” says Rashid Khan, founder president of the Pune Rickshaw Parishad, who is organising the event.
He adds that drivers work meticulously to enhance customer comfort and decorate their vehicles. Rickshaw drivers spend huge amounts on television sets, laptops, expensive mirrors, tariff cards, newspapers, water bottles and tissues to embellish their rides.
There will be four categories in the competition. The first three will be for rickshaw drivers from Pune, Mumbai and districts such as Kolhapur and Sangli. The final category will be for rickshaw artisans and workers across these districts. The contestants will be judged by a panel of 20 experts.
Salem Shaikh, an organiser of the fashion show, has toiled over the city roads for over 40 years . He says that he began to decorate his vehicle, beginning with a first-aid kit. “The kit not only helped my passengers but also others in case of a road accident. Apart from providing various amenities for my passengers, I also decorated the hood and redefined the interiors. My vehicle also has comfortable cushioning. Many passengers have praised my spirit and commented on how comfortable my rickshaw is,” says Shaikh.
For a driver, a rickshaw is a companion for life. Drivers say that they spend the better part of the day in their vehicles and take pains to dress it up, much as people decorate their homes. “Doing up the rickshaw has not been very expensive. It helps that several rickshaw drivers like me have access to flea markets and old bazaars, where the most amazing cut-outs and motifs are available at throwaway prices. You just need to have an eye for them,” he says.
Khan said the show will also incorporate facilities for auto-driver’s such as felicitation of veteran rickshaw drivers, getting the participants health and life insurances, and recognition of honest drivers, who have returned wallets and other valuables found by them. The award ceremony will also honour the backstage artisans responsible for putting the rickshaws on the roads — the mechanics, welders and hood-makers, among others. The felicitation will be done by BJP MLA Madhuri Misal, and Girish Bapat, MP from Pune.
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