Tongas or Horse Drawn Carriages were once the preferred mode of transport in and around Delhi. Old timers would recall taking the Tonga from Old Delhi, from the Railway Stations (Old Delhi, New Delhi & Nizamuddin) to various parts of the city. My father remembers arriving in Delhi (the first time from Pune and it has to become his home ever since!!) in winter on Guru Nanak’s birthday and taking the tonga to Lodhi Road. Even now it brings memories of a wonderful ride, the cold, empty broad roads and a wonderful fast paced horse.
The horses, horsemen still exist today removed from the Minto bridge area but active in the Sadar Thana area near Sadar Bazaar (near Bara Tutti). The horses ply from there to the Metro Station, the Sadar Bazaar, Naya Bazaar, Sadar Mandi areas and to Karol Bagh. It might be a curio to residents from other parts of Delhi, but for the locals taking the tonga is a way of life. And no tonga remains empty for long, being filled with passengers soon. Each of the Tongas take 6 – 8 passengers. A stand, a time table and the tongas ply with casual ease. The tonga drivers equally polite courteous and even breaking journey to pick up or drop passengers wherever they want.
My recent endeavours to photograph them following the much touted ban (in view of the coming CWG) raised concerned questions as to what would happen to their livelihood? How can the animals be maintained? Will Tongas never be seen on the streets of Delhi again? Who can answer such questions? For me, standing there, the Tongas seem well adept in the “to be made modernistic Delhi”. It is an eco-friendly fun way of travelling, fast and very comfortable. Yes, a wee bit emphasis on maintenance and keeping the area clean, it is a definitive tourist draw!!! Amidst the cars and fast paced life can such an animal drawn transport be viable? Why not, when the Government seems looking for eco-friendly non polluting, non-fuel guzzling bulk mode of transport – why remove one which seems to be functioning pretty well. A further boost, use it as a tourist potential. The areas of Rashtrapati Bhawan, Shanti Van or better still CP, can run on Tonga power, the chaos and parking problem can be taken care off!!! Purists and tech savvy individuals will call me a backward romantic, but kya kahen ki dil hai ki manta nahin!!!!!
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