'I hope whenever he comes to Mumbai, he hires my cab'

British business magnate Richard Branson could easily have hired a fleet of fancy wheels for his promotional event at Nariman Point last afternoon. But when it comes to flagging off a new route for his airlines, you can count on the thrill-seeking tycoon to pull off an original new stunt. And Branson didn’t disappoint, when he chose to make an appearance atop the humble black and yellow cab, resplendent in the garb of an Indian groom, drumming up a storm on his dholak.

Band, baaja and Branson! British business tycoon Richard Branson sits atop a taxi and plays the dhol amid much celebration to announce the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s service from Mumbai to London. (Inset) Milan Singh was ecstatic that his cab had been chosen to ferry Branson in the city. Pics/Suresh KK

Sitting on the roof of the ubiquitous black and yellow cab and beating on his dhol, Branson was the cynosure of all eyes and cameras. A pair of cabs followed close on his heels.

Branson was in Mumbai to announce Virgin Atlantic’s connectivity in the Mumbai-London route. The entourage moved just a few hundred metres from NCPA apartments to Nariman Point, but the ride left the three taxi drivers beaming. They spoke of Branson as a bahar gaon ka bada seth (‘Rich man from a foreign country’) who made their day. 

“I don’t know who he was, must be a bada seth. I was paid Rs 1,500 for the event. I am very happy and would pray that whenever he comes to Mumbai he hires my cab,” said 55-year-old taxi driver Anant Prasad Tewary, who lives in Kandivli.

Sir Richard Branson, chairman, Virgin Group of Companies had created quite a stir the last time he had visited the country. In 2005, he caused quite the controversy when he lifted a model on the wing of his Virgin aircraft during the inauguration  of Virgin’s Mumbai-London flight.

Mohammed Farooq, a Malwani-based cab driver, received Rs 1,700 for the event. But Milan Singh, another Malwani taxi driver was the luckiest — it was his cab that was chosen to bear the flamboyant tycoon, even being fitted with a cushion on the roof for Branson. Needless to say, he was handsomely remunerated for the stint.

During the same visit, Branson also visited the dabbawalas and travelled with them in a luggage train from Dadar station to Churchgate. Branson delivered a lunch box to one of his employees near their Churchgate office.

“I am very happy as sahab was sitting on top of my cab. What I could have earned after about eight hours of hectic work, I got for a ride of a few hundred meters, that too with cameras clicking my cab.” 

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