Think Jap, be Indian

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A hacksaw, a wrench, a couple of metres of 3 cm wide galvanised iron pipe and, Mohanlal Madan's ingenuity did the trick. He became the intellectual property rights holder of the only autorickshaw inspired by the Mitshubishis and Canters. Of the 60,000 three-wheeler autorickshaws in Delhi, vehicle number DL-IR-A 5176 stands out....its chimney-shaped periscope-like structure can't missed from a mile.

Madan, 30, who lives in Khanpur, had a problem: his brother's three-wheeler. Frequent breakdowns plagued it and repairs cost a pretty packet. "We not only had to get the engine overhauled every 3 months, we also lost earnings till the job was done." Most often, the engine would be completely choked with dust and mud," Madan says.

But Madan, after completing 12 years of school, had trained himself as a mechanic. He has been working in a major automobile manufacturing copmany in the capital for the last decade. And that helped. "All those Toyotas and Canters then gave me a bright idea. These have their air filters sticking right above the driver's cabin. Very little dust gets in. Even in the Indian Ambassador, the air filter is inside the bonnet and only about 5 per cent of the dust in the filter enters the engine."

Madan examined the auto rickshaw very carefully. The air filter is almost at ground level. "Naturally, so much dust was sucked in. Even passengers get dusty, leave alone the filter."

So he cut out the filter, welded the L-shaped pipe and lifted it about 50 cm above the autorickshaw's roof. The whole thing cost him Rs 100 only. And now the filter is able to breathe cleanly and there has been no need for engine overhauling in the 7 months that he has been running his redesigned contraption.

The spirit has now gripped Madan, who is currently working on a solvent to clean car engines, which can be injected using an ordinary hypodermic syringe. Unfortunately, he has not heard of patents. But, "This modification lowers pollution, because with a clean engine, the emission is less. I have never failed a pollution check," he beams. But despite his own success, Madan bemoans the extremely high level of pollution in the city. "I wish I could put my head up on a pole, and keep it above all this smoke and bust,' he says.