Bombay to Mumbai in the Premier Padmini

From Bombay to Mumbai through time and decades, the Premier Padmini has provided rides to millions of Mumbaikars since its inception

The minute you touch down in London, black cabs will embrace you with open arms. Fly to the metropolis of Kolkata in India, the yellow taxis will greet you. In India, the yellow taxis of Kolkata are distinguished and are an icon of the boulevards. However, there’s another city in the western part of the country that offers another special breed of taxis. In this piece, we are talking about the Premier Padmini taxis that are encountered in the downtown of Mumbai (formerly Bombay).

Fondly called the Kaali Peeli (black-yellow in Hindi) taxi, the Padmini cabs were taken off the streets of Mumbai as the state government pulled away vehicles that are older than 20 years to control air pollution. At present, a few are sighted near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway terminal and the Marine Drive, trying hard to preserve the cultural fabric of the city of Mumbai.

A prominent part of Mumbai’s landscape, Premier Automotive Ltd. (PAL) produced the Premier Padmini under a license from Fiat. The car made a debut as the Fiat 1100 in 1964 and, in 1965, they changed its moniker to Premier President. Nine years later, in 1974, the car’s name was transformed to Premier Padmini after the Rajput queen Padmavati, who was also known as Padmini. From 1970 to 1990, the Padmini ruled the avenues of Mumbai until economic liberalisation in India allowed private corporations to engage effortlessly.

After 1990, PAL failed to modernize the Padmini as per the evolving taste and requirements of the patrons. While new cars from other manufacturers were decorated with contemporary features such as stereo systems, air conditioners and power windows, the Padmini had none. Slowly, the company stumbled into losses and by 2000; they ended the production of the Padmini. The termination in the production created a major dilemma for the owners as they failed to locate parts for maintenance and the condition of the machines further degraded with time.

Last but not least, application-based cab services made their way into the city with new-gen cars and the state government’s ban on older vehicles turned into a death knell for the Kaali Peeli taxis. Once ruled the lanes of Bombay, the remaining Premier Padmini taxis in Mumbai are now chiefly used by sightseers.