Jun 12, 2010
My love for cars is more utilitarian than for the prestige of owning a famous brand or other intangible factors like driving pleasure etc. No wonder my first car was a Maruti Omni, the cheapest car available with maximum capacity in terms of passengers. Even then it invited envy because of its unique Army green colour.
I used it extensively traveling to office at Kanjur from my home at Thane. I had an arrangement with 5-6 colleagues who were picked up from various spots on the way and dropped back in the evening. Apart from good company, this arrangement also took care of my petrol bills.
I liked the clear, unobstructed view as there was no projection in front. I could stop so close to the vehicle in front that if I wanted, I could reach out and touch it. During a Crompton party, a senior manager wanted to try driving my van. He made a round and then commented that he felt like he was driving a truck. Incidentally, he drove a company owned Esteem. In those days, at Crompton, you got a Maruti 800 when you became a Manager, it is airconditioned when you become a Senior Manager. Another level up and you get a chauffer. Further up, the car is traded for an Esteem. You had to drive around with that Esteem till GM level when you can trade up for an Indica.
After the van, I got an old Maruti 800, unbelievable 20 years old- all my protests about how good the condition is etc. didn’t have much effect when people learnt of its age. With its powerful Japanese engine, it served me well for a couple of months. And then, one rainy day I had just crossed a narrow check naka when it refused to move from the middle of the road. There was a beat chowky in front and two poor policemen drenched in the rain started pushing it from either side while I sat inside steering it to the side. I had to foot a steep repairs bill.
Another time, while I was driving, the car forgot that it had to stop when I braked. It kept on moving and I kept on guiding it trying to be in a position where I didn’t have to stop. It was not easy but luck was on my side as I drove it as usual for a couple of kilometers towards my destination. Not wishing to try my luck too often, I traded the 800 for a Santro with all bells and whistles- power steering, power windows etc.
I am a little scared of these big cars- my friend has this Accent and just thinking about it I wonder with its huge protruding bonnet, as to how he is able to see what is on front, left and right. It would be a pleasure driving on the highways but to think of maneuvering it on the narrow city roads gives me nightmares. Thanks to a generous friend, recently I got a chance to drive a Honda City for 5-6 hours, mostly on the highways. It was a great experience, though thanks to my inexperience with the 5th gear, I would often slip into 3rd gear.
I would be a little ashamed of the 800, especially when I had to give rides to others. However, I had my moment when once, we took another family friend to a school sports event. After the event, the number of members had increased by two. I reluctantly mentioned that maybe some of us will have to take an auto. The lady, who herself owned an Indica, said,
“All of us will not fit in.”
“Who said? The old Maruti 800 is the best vehicle, better than all these modern vehicles. Everyone will definitely fit in. I will show you.”
She proceeded to give instructions on who should sit where, who should sit on whose laps with due consideration to age, gender, weight and X factor. Unfortunately, being the driver, no one was allowed to sit on my lap. Once all the doors were firmly closed, we zoomed ahead with a triumphant roar.
At least for a day, the Maruti 800 had made my day.