Bapi and His Moving Oasis

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Bapi with his "Green Taxi Bapi"
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This article tells the inspiring story of Dhananjoy (Bapi) Chakrabarty, known as “Green Taxi Bapi,” who transformed his white Ambassador car into a moving rooftop garden as a statement for environmental protection. Despite facing challenges and hardships, Bapi’s journey from a factory worker to a unique cab driver with a green message is highlighted. Through Bapi’s story, readers are reminded of the importance of protecting the environment and finding creative ways to make a positive impact.

On a singeing mid-noon, when you have an itching skin and thirsty throat walking a Kolkata street or sitting in another car you can find him in the rows of cars passing by. It is a white Ambassador car, once a darling on the Indian roads, which has some uniqueness that will compulsively attract your eyeballs. It’s a car extraordinaire which has a garden inside and on the rooftop! You instantaneously peep to get a view of the man in the driver’s seat and perhaps you can catch a snapshot glimpse of forty-something Dhananjoy (Bapi) Chakrabarty before he whizzed past you!

Bapi, popularly known as “ Green Taxi Bapi” had a meagre beginning in life. “ My parents left their home at Medinipur ( a southern district of Bengal) and came to Kolkata many years back and both I and my sister were born in this city.” His father’s income as a compounder was low and it was difficult making two ends meet in the Chakraborty household. Barely in eighth standard in school, Bapi had to quit his studies and join a metalwork factory to earn his living. In the mid-eighties, a lockout was declared in the factory, and like many others, Bapi lost his job one bad morning. That was the time when he was initiated to driving by one good Samaritan, who he still adores as his “guru”.

Bapi picked up the driving skill fast and decided to become a cabbie.

Bapi with his Taxi
Bapi with his Taxi

During his childhood, Bapi never stayed in a village but somehow he developed a liking for plants and trees in the vicinity around his home. A tiny green shoot used to get his attention till the time it transformed into a full-grown tree. With the tree, he dearly nurtured in himself the excitement and joy of saving a life and being kind to the environment.

‘A cab driver’s life is tough and rather uneventful. The daily grind of seven to eight hours in the extremities of weather coupled with air pollution is itself a challenge and far from being healthy; add to it, the problem of some roughish, unscrupulous customers (read passengers) who take the driver for granted”,’ says Bapi. His moments of tiredness and lassitude behind the wheels used to get re-energised when he parked his car under the shadow of anaging banyan tree and rested. ‘Kolkata of the late eighties still had considerable green cover in areas like Salt Lake, upcoming New Town, along the Eastern Metropolitan Bye Pass and VIP Road. The air around those areas was of far better quality than the city proper. But as the city was expanding its tentacles, trees were felled in numbers, mindlessly.

Bapi wanted to make some right noise about this unmindful act, but who would listen to a cabbie, and who would provide him the right platform?

But then all days are not the same. Unbelievably, an empty liquor bottle, left in the cab by some slap-happy passenger, changed Bapi’s life! Instead of throwing away the bottle, Bapi thought of filling it with water and putting a bunch of Devil’s ivy (in common parlance money plant, a creeper variety) stems in it and setting it on the parcel shelf of the cab. “Many of my friends ridiculed it; they thought it was a crazy idea. Frankly, I was also not too sure if this would work out; but it did”. In a few days, new roots appeared inside the bottle and the creeper made its photonastic journey. Being enthused, he put seven plant holders with various plants. The look of the parcel shelf gradually transformed. It didn’t take time to become a jaw-dropping view for the passengers and passersby.“ I had a new task in hand – doubling up as a gardener, looking after them with all due care that the plants needed.”. It also gave Bapi a chance to convey his message in favour of a green environment as visuals communicated faster than words.

On other days while in a cha adda at the taxi stand, where Bapi used to park his cab for picking up passengers, another driver friend casually remarked “ ebar tor matha teou duto gach lagiye ne ( now you plant trees on your head as well )! This remark though sounded casual and sarcastic, triggered an eureka moment for Bapi! He thought of building up a “rooftop garden” on the cab, which he readily shared with the owner of the car. Unfortunately, he refused, fearing his car would be damaged. Undaunted, Bapi bought his own vehicle sometime around 2007, and now he was free to go ahead with his coveted “rooftop garden”!

Roof Top Garden
Roof Top Garden

“ I gathered some experience in metals from my factory days and that helped me a lot. I bought the roof hood of another Ambassador car from a scrap dealer and put a metallic fence around it so that it can hold soil. Artist Sibsankar Das, a neighbour, helped me with fibre coating the inside surface of the hood to prevent rusting. The entire entrapment could be firmly fitted on the car’s roof with metal clamps. It was then filled with a layer of sand and a plastic net was evenly spread and topped with soil. Grass bed was laid subsequently and with time other plants were planted. Even if the plants were watered or it rained, because of a proper exit pipeline passengers were never inconvenienced.” Artist Partha Dasgupta drew a few doodles on the rooftop metal fence. Very soon the cab became a traffic-stopper for its off-beat look and its owner came to be known as “Green Taxi Bapi”! Bapi kept leaflets in the car with messages about environmental pollution and its protection which he distributed generously to his passengers. He started getting calls from people who wanted to ride the green bandwagon and Bapi’s green taxi, which by this time became an icon, was a hit. He had a wish of travelling in his green taxi from Kolkata to Delhi spreading the message of environmental protection and finally calling on the honourable President in Delhi to appraise him about his journey as a green activist so far, which is yet to be fulfilled.

Artist Partha Dasgupta making doodles on Bapi's Green Taxi
Artist Partha Dasgupta making doodles on Bapi’s Green Taxi

The yellow cab was almost at the fag end of its codal life when Bapi thought of acquiring a new car. “Being a firm protagonist of green environment, I couldn’t myself drive a car which is a potential threat to clean air.” As he was looking around, artist Pradip Moitra came forward and gifted him his old Ambassador car which was lying mostly unused.

Bapi’s “green revolution” was back on track!

Green Taxi Bapi all set to take on the roads of Kolkata
Green Taxi Bapi all set to take on the roads of Kolkata

“Not only I transferred my garden to the new vehicle but this time I thought of having graffiti on the car exterior so that it becomes a moving canvas with the message of sustaining a green environment.” It was a sheer coincidence that he chanced upon meeting renowned cartoonist and illustrator Uday Deb, through art historian Debdutta Gupta, a regular commuter of the green cab. Uday readily agreed to the idea and also proactively involved ‘CartoonDol’, a group of artists, cartoonists, and illustrators, which he himself was a part of. “ Initially I was not too sure how best we would be able to draw on a vertical surface when the medium was oil-based enamel paint which is predominantly used for painting metallic billboards and not for the drawings that we do”, says Uday, “ but then collectively we decided to go ahead and slowly the white canvas of the vintage Ambassador car transformed into a colourful razzmatazz of cartoons where we captured the Kolkata heritage and bangaliyana and of course, the crises of India at large, including that of environmental degradation.” Artists like Anup Roy, Hiran Mitra, Pradip Moitra, Samir Aich, Mrinmoye Deb, Aritra Dasgupta, Laboni Barman, Anusweta De Sarkar, Rituporno Basu, and various other members of ‘CartoonDol’ participated in the event.

Uday Deb with his gang of artist from 'Cartoon Dol' working on the vintage Ambassador Car
Uday Deb with his gang of artist from ‘Cartoon Dol’ working on the vintage Ambassador Car

End of the day Bapi’s wish was fulfilled!

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Bapi’s green cab is surely a head-turner on Kolkata roads. “Whenever I park the car, onlookers want to get photographed with it as they ask me various questions about the upkeep of the plants and grass on board. I enjoy speaking to them. They also enjoy the cartoons and the crispy taglines,” says Bapi with a wide grin.

The head turner on the road of Kolkata
The head turner on the road of Kolkata

The car is quite a hit with foreigners. Tracy Lee Stum, a 3D illusionist, and artist who was in Kolkata, had a comfortable ride during her stay in the city and was all praise for the car.

Green Taxi Bapi's happy customer
Tourist be like – ” What an eco friendly ride!”

But all days are not sunny, some have a shade of darkness on them. Bapi lost his wife and parents in quick succession during the pandemic time. Suddenly the loneliness got the better of him and the world came crushing.

  • Bapi feels that every living being created by mother Nature has a place on this Earth. It is we, the Human race, who always intrude into their natural habitat rather than they trespassing into our civilised environ. And as we are biologically gifted with intelligence, the onus is on us to protect and sustain them through judicious sharing of available resources.

“Now I stay in a rented house and I have only to look after my pets – a flock of pigeons, shoal of fish, squirrels, birds and the plants all around and of course the green cab which I consider to be a living being. It breathes and speaks for me”.

The happy eco lover - Dhananjoy (Bapi) Chakrabarty aslo known as "Green Taxi Bapi"
The happy eco lover – Dhananjoy (Bapi) Chakrabarty aslo known as “Green Taxi Bapi”

Quick as a wink, my mind travelled to the rustic milieu of Bihar and I could visualise Bimal, a fictional character of Subodh Ghosh’s Bengali story “Ajantrik” ( also made into a movie of the same name by Ritwik Ghatak ) tied in an emotional bonding with his dilapidated Ford car nicknamed “Jaggatdal”. The story of Bapi and Bimal, somehow, intertwines themselves into an ageless narrative of love and dedication.

You may connect Bapi @ and see his videos on

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