Unable to find her car in the melee of mourners after the late and great Atal Bihari Vajpeyee’s last rites, actress and BJP member Hema Malini simply hopped on to a passing auto rickshaw.
And she never felt safer. “Rarely do I get a chance to be on my own. I am always surrounded by people and coming out on the roads on my own is a luxury that I can ill-afford. I was warned against travelling without my security arrangement. But after I paid my last respects to Atalji it was impossible to locate my car in the surge of people. When I saw an autorickshaw I simply stopped it and climbed on with a female companion who was with me.”
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Hemaji says the auto ride was liberating. “The auto driver took me all around the Connaught Place and other areas in Delhi before dropping me to my hotel. He was a very courteous and discreet drive. Of course, he knew who I was. But he didn’t ask me anything even once. He just drove on quietly. Delhi is reputed to be unsafe for women. But I felt completely safe in a vehicle I’ve seldom used being driven by a man I had never seen.”
Hemaji feels she should do this more often. “How can we experience the real India unless we get out of our cocoons and private cars? Was this the first time I had been in an autorickshaw? Of course not! Recently I needed to be dropped to the ISKCON temple in Mumbai and my driver was not around. I told my assistant to call an autorickshaw. ‘Aap auto se jayenge?’ he was incredulous. But I insisted. And even without my security guards, I enjoyed the ride completely.”
The legendary Dream Girl advises such unescorted travel to all politicians. “Just go out there and explore the city, meet the people. It is a very revealing experience.”