When NGO Project Mumbai called him in early April to help police personnel on the lockdown duty, Ketan Rawal, owner of the largest fleet of vanity vans in India, did not think twice. He made 19 of his 45 vanity vans, large buses designed to provide comfort and luxury to their occupants, available free of cost.
The vanity vans, which he would rent out to big production houses during shoots for Rs 80,000-1 lakh per day, are now mostly stationed in Mumbai’s western suburbs, where the number of Covid containment zones is rising. Equipped with an air conditioner, washrooms and sofas, the vanity vans are a welcome refuge for police personnel on 12-hour lockdown duty every day.
It was a welcome surprise for additional commissioner of police (north zone) Manoj Sharma, when Rawal offered his vanity vans in the service of his staff. It broke Rawal’s heart when he heard police personnel were drinking less water in the day so that they did not have to visit toilets frequently. The ordeal of menstruating policewomen was worse. “The Mumbai police are doing a great job of keeping the disease at bay. It made me ask myself why I couldn’t do something for them in return.”
Rawal has posted two workers, one driver and one technician on each of the vans for cleaning and maintenance. The police have arranged for electricity from nearby connections so that the vans can function 24×7.
Hailing from a well-to-do family of Una in Gujarat, Rawal came to the Maximum City 24 years ago, in 1996, chasing the dream of becoming an actor. He did get bit roles in TV soaps but nothing by way of an acting career. After an unsuccessful attempt in 2001, Rawal borrowed Rs 5 lakh from his father a few years later and started building his fleet of vanity vans. “The 45 vehicles in my fleet make me the biggest vanity van owner in India today,” Rawal says. It is time he gave something back to society.
Ask constable Savita Gangurde, posted in Jogeshwari. “I am used to the long working hours,” she says. “But it is a different experience to use the washroom in a vanity van, a zbig relief.” For Rawal, that’s enough.