Pony-driven carts fast vanishing from Ooty streets

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Once a major tourist attraction, the pony-driven 'jhatkas' (carts), made popular by movies like the Amitabh Bachchan starrer 'Mard', have become scarce in this Queen of Hills since past four to five years due to advent of cabs and other mode of transport.

There used to be more than 150 jhatkas, with special stands for them and majority of the tourists preferred this mode of transport. However, with the advent of cabs and other vehicles, it is becoming tough for jhatka-drivers, said

Mahendran whose family had been into the business for past three generations.

"We used to get about Rs 500 to Rs 600 from this business till five years ago, which was adequate for a decent living and also look after the ponies and the maintenance of the cart," claimed Mahendran, who has now become a guide.

With the advent of smaller cabs and mushrooming of travel agencies, the pony business witnessed a gradual decline and at present, there is hardly one or two such carts and that too without any demand. "All the pony owners have now become guides or gone to work in hotels," he said.

Even rides on pony-back, which were very popular, particularly during the tourist season, have seen a decline, as there is an influx of bigger horses brought from Northern parts of the country like Rajasthan, which is preferred by tourists at present, he said.

Even film producers bring their own carts and use bigger horses, he said.

Mahendran hopes the business can be revived by creating bigger jhatkas driven by two ponies.

The pony-drawn carts also featured in some Malayalam films like the Mohan Lal starrer-Kilukkam.

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