In a rare display of their unique diplomacy style, four US diplomats took to the streets of the capital New Delhi in their "personalized auto-rickshaws" ditching their famous bullet-proof secure motorcades. American diplomats in India—Ann L Mason, Ruth Holmberg, Shareen J Kitterman, and Jennifer Bywaters— seize the roads every morning driving in their Black and Pink auto rickshaws to work, which also includes the ‘official trips’.
The diplomats underscored their love for their distinct mode of transportation as they stressed that they absolutely adored going around the streets on the three-wheeler. One of the diplomats noted that it is her instinct to experiment in life as taught by her mother that inspired her to assume a different path. This also brought others on board.
"These diplomats have taken to the common man’s commute not just for fun, but also to set an example," news agency ANI reported.
The U.S. Embassy’s #autogang is here! Check out our first #DostiMonth video and see these three diplomatic auto rickshaw women drivers hit the Delhi streets!— U.S. Embassy India (@USAndIndia) September 9, 2022
Tune in every Friday this month for #DostiMonth videos!#USIndiaAt75🇺🇸🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/0ggfwyokqy
Ann L Mason described her experience saying that she had a lifelong love of vehicles, that traces back to US state of Detroit. "Everywhere I’ve been there’s been something special about a vehicle but really none more special in my opinion than an autorickshaw. When I was in Pakistan, before coming to India, I was in armoured vehicles and they were big, beautiful vehicles," she told the agency. Further, the diplomat said that she had always looked out on the street and would see the autorickshaws going by. "I always wanted to be in the autorickshaw," she stated. "So when I got to India and had the opportunity to buy one, I took it immediately”, added diplomat Ann L Mason.
Her personalized auto is fitted with the Bluetooth device and has a creative curtain with an image of a tiger. t also has a nickname 'KITT' that she says is a tribute to the 1980s show “Knight Rider”.
American diplomat says that the experience that she has had so far on the vehicle, so commonly seen on the streets of the Indian Capital, has been "terrific." "Yes, learning to drive the autorickshaw was completely new for me," she added, noting that she had to learn how to drive it first, and efficiently before hitting the road. "I had never driven any vehicle with a clutch, never driven a motorcycle only automatic cars, my whole life," explained Ann L Mason. She further stated that it was slightly hard for her to handle the auto at first and get a license to drive it.
When asked what was the driver behind her will to learn to drive an auto, the American diplomat replied, "my mother." “My inspiration is my mother, my mother always took chances. She travelled around the world, she was in the Vietnam War and she did so much with her life. Life and she always taught me to do interesting things and take a chance because one you might not get another opportunity and two you never know what you might experience. My daughter also drives the autorickshaw and so learning from them every day, the interesting things that how they see the world”, she told the agency in her statement.
Shareen J Kitterman's pink autorickshaw with flower magnets catches many eyes on the streets likewise. She was born in the south Indian state of Karnataka and currently holds US citizenship. Kitterman says that she was inspired by a Mexican Ambassador Melba Pria whose white auto was decorated with colourful tassels which were very attractive. "When I was in the US planning to come to New Delhi, I’d heard about the Mexican Ambassador. Ten years ago, she had an auto and she had a driver. That’s when I started thinking about it. When I came here, I saw Ann who had an auto, so when I own an auto, I want to drive it. So, that was my whole goal”, Shareen told ANI. For Kitterman, it is a way that the embassies show respect toward each other cultures.
Diplomat Ruth Holmberg is known for driving around in her autorickshaw dubbed as the ‘black beauty' in town. "I enjoy driving the auto very much and I love it when other women see that I am driving it and I like that they see this possibility for them as well. For me, diplomacy is not all that high level. Diplomacy is people meeting people, people getting to know each other, and getting a chance to build relationships and that’s what I can do with the auto. I meet people every day," she tells ANI.
The diplomats stated that on her way back from work, visiting the market, she does it all in her autorickshaw. "I know the vendors in my area, and I know people in the market .. they are all excited to see me at the market with the auto. They come and introduce themselves and with that, I am able to build that one on one relationship and I think that is a very important part of diplomacy," Ruth Holmberg explained to the agency.
Jennifer Bywaters believes that one needs to be brave enough to think out of the box and have fun as she drives around in a black autorickshaw. “When I got to be in Delhi, I met Ann and after riding in her auto, I decided that I needed this vehicle too. I get to see the local perspective, more of the humanity. Some of the people helped me since I started driving the auto-rickshaw and so I saw the good side of the people in Delhi” Jennifer was quoted as saying by ANI. While for her learning how to drive the vehicle wasn’t difficult, she found it hard finally driving around the roads in Delhi, citing that navigating these streets is difficult.