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Four US women diplomats dump cars and buy auto-rickshaws to drive around in Delhi!

Ann L Mason, Ruth Holmberg, Shareen J Kitterman and Jennifer Bywaters love to go with their Black and Pink three-wheelers, driving themselves for all their work including 'official trips'.

New Delhi: Four US woman diplomats in Delhi have dumped their cars and drive around in their “personalized auto-rickshaws” in their “out-of-the-box” diplomacy style.

Ann L Mason, Ruth Holmberg, Shareen J Kitterman and Jennifer Bywaters love to go with their Black and Pink three-wheelers, driving themselves for all their work including ‘official trips’.

Speaking to ANI, the diplomats shared their experience of learning this distinct mode of transport and how diplomats driving the auto-rickshaws is a rare exception!

From Detroit to my auto rickshaw, I’ve had a lifelong love of vehicles and so 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. But I would always look out on the street and I would see the autorickshaws going by and I always wanted to be in the autorickshaw. So when I got to India and had the opportunity to buy one, I took it immediately,” said Ann L Mason to ANI.

“For me it was terrifying. Yes, learning to drive the autorickshaw was completely new for me. I had never driven any vehicle with a clutch, never driven a motorcycle, only automatic cars, my whole life,” she said when asked about how hard it was to learn, maintain an auto and get a license.

On being asked about her inspiration behind the idea, Ann said that her mother is her inspiration who inspired her to take chances and experiment in life.

“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… My daughter also drives the autorickshaw and so learning from them every day, the interesting things that how they see the world,” she added.

Her personalized black autorickshaw has a Bluetooth device and a curtain printed with the image of a tiger. She has taken special care to personalize her autorickshaw, nicknamed KITT, in homage to the 1980s’ show “Knight Rider”.

Shareen J Kitterman, born in the south Indian state of Karnataka and holding US citizenship flaunts her pink autorickshaws with flower magnets, said that she was inspired by the Mexican Ambassador who too had an auto with a driver.

Mexican Ambassador Melba Pria was the one who started the trend when she made a white-coloured rick her official vehicle.

On being asked about the celebration of 75 years of relationship between both countries and she sees herself bridging the gap, Shareen said that she understands the Indian and the American way of functioning and that the embassies show respect for each other’s culture.

“It’s truly an honour to be able to serve my adopted country in the country of my birth. All my experiences growing up in India and then being an immigrant in the US and then naturalizing and becoming a diplomat are all the various experiences that I feel I bring to my personal and professional life. I get involved in many projects because I feel like I can truly form that bridge. I do understand the Indian way of thinking and functioning, and I also understand the American way. So, one of the simple things I’ve done in the embassy is a lot of work notices, management notices used to be published in English only and now we publish both in English and Hindi. I think it’s my way, and our embassy’s way of showing respect for the culture and language of the local staff as well as the host country,” added Shareen.

Discovering the hustle and bustle of the city, Ruth Holmberg with her ‘black beauty’, goes to the market and meets people which she called her way of ‘diplomacy’.

“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. On my way from my work, going to the market. 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,” said Ruth Holmberg from inside her black rick.

Explaining the experience of her journey, Jennifer Bywaters said that she got to see the good side of the people on the road who helped her and you need to have fun and be brave enough to think out of the box.

“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 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,” said Jennifer.

Accustomed to the riding, she added that the hardest part was navigating around other auto-rickshaws but learning how to drive wasn’t difficult.