MAHENDER Kumar waters the ‘garden’ on his vehicle’s roof.—AFP
MAHENDER Kumar waters the ‘garden’ on his vehicle’s roof.—AFP

NEW DELHI: Yellow and green autorickshaws are ubiquitous on New Delhi’s roads but Mahendra Kumar’s vehicle stands out — it has a garden on its roof aimed at keeping passengers cool during the searing summer season.

Kumar says the thick patch of green keeps the vehicle cool even when temperatures are touching 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in the Indian capital, enough to melt the tar on roads.

Kumar, 48, has grown over 20 varieties of shrubs, crops and flowers, attracting commuters and passers-by who stop to click selfies and photos of the unique “moving garden”.

“Around two years ago I had this idea during the peak of the summer season. I thought if I can grow some plants on the roof, it will keep my auto cool and give relief from the heat to my passengers,” Kumar said.

Kumar also installed two mini coolers and fans inside.

“It is now like a natural AC (air conditioner). My passengers are so happy after the ride that they don’t mind paying me an extra 10-20 bucks ($0.13-.26),” said the father of three.

Kumar said he was doing his “own small bit” for the environment by planting lettuce, tomatoes and millets on his autorickshaw.

Preparing the roof for sowing was simple: Kumar first put a mat followed by a thick sack on which he sprinkled some soil.

He got grass from the roadside and seeds from friends and acquaintances and within days, the seeds sprouted into green shoots.

“It does not require much effort at all. I just water the plants using a bottle twice a day,” he said.

Kumar’s initiative is an inspiration for his fellow drivers who have been asking him for tricks and tips.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2022

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