Sunday, May 21, 2006

Car Talk !

When we were young, like in middle school, my father was posted in the Central state Secretariat in Mumbai. (It was called Bombay then). Since we were in school in Pune, and school mobility has never been a strong point in our educational system, we only came to Bombay to spend our vacations, and stayed at a place at Nariman Point.

One of the things my brother and I liked to do, was to sit on one of the Marine Drive benches, and admire the cars going by.

Ye olde Ambassadors and Fiats were simply passe.

What we watched and what my brother became an expert identifer about, were the American , German , Japanese and British cars, that often cruised down these roads. I still remeber my brother "reciting" the name of a Peugot, (really messing it up in the pronounciation), showing me a Buick passing by. Once in a while a Cadillac. A Mercedes Benz was a rarity, but we saw some, given that most Consular Staff lived in this area. There was so much glamour attached to a Mercedes, that some of it rubbed of on some buses, which were supposed to be Tata Mercedes Benz. Vauzhalls, and Prefects puttered about, and there were even some cars which had side boards on which you could stand while the car was running. Fiats by then were an Indian Production, and so were Ambassadors, and were not considered worth commenting on.

Soon, it came to pass, that these cars disappeared from the scenery, and were "brought out and aired' only during Vintage car rallies. The Fiats and Anbassadors were the cars of choice, and one had to wait 8 years to be allocated a Fiat car. Bombay was , and still is, full of Fiat taxis.

The Ambassadors were a very very roomy and bulky vehicle , and it was not unknown then for a grooms entire eimmediate family of 10 , to travel to the wedding, in a single ambassador car, perched on various laps. For the Government Ministers, it was , amd still is , a vehicle of choice. Old Reliable..

Today, almost 40 years later, Bombay is now called Mumbai, and the roads are awash with American, Korean , German, and other cars, "gliding" around or at least trying to, given the craterish state of our roads. .. The Maruti cars in their various models have almost replaced the Fiats, and Ambassadors are almost antique. In my childhood, having a car radio was such a rarity, you turned it on and listened. The car itself made a decent noise when it was driven, changing gears etc, that you mostly heard the radio when stationary. Todays car , are much quieter.

Today the cars come with a choice of radio, CD player et al. most are airconditioned, .But people are so busy talking on their cell phones, that they hardly hear the radio and listen to whats going on.

Car thieves are having a great time, there is so much to choose from. If its not the car, you can always steal the audio electronics. And the drive is so smooth, you cannot tell when someone drives off with it.

We stiil have a Fiat, which my husband bought when he got his first job. He still has the same job and the same car. Our car is 32 years old. No radio, no CD player. Not even a clock. No cup holder. And if you stare long enough at the accelerator and clutch, you can actually see the road beneath, in all its concrete glory. No A/c, no cooling, but lots of heating :-)

The car is often left unlocked. Even the thieves dont take a second look.

A few years ago, we were woken up one morning, when someone in our building complex. saw a car parked next to ours, in our building, with its windshield smashed. On further investigation, it was clear that the thieves had taken off with the audio electronics. The car was locked with one of those remote locks, that sound like a video game when they are operated. Never mind. They just crashed the glass and got in.

And our old Fiat sat alongside, unlocked, open to the world, and the thief probably never even took a cursory look at it. .


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