There is a scene in the 1989 Tamil movie Apoorva Sagodharargal (Hindi’s Appu Raja) where Kamal Hasaan quips “Pallu Kusarthu’ ( extreme sensitivity to the teeth – the closest translation sans the panache! ) as Gowthami learns to change gears while driving her car. The quip was relatable to all those novice drivers as the jarring sound the gears make is likened to the uncomfortable sensitivity of the teeth.
Who better to know this than my Wagon R which we had purchased in 2005? I believed that a car is needed to take one from Point A to Point B, a thought car lovers would find sacrilegious! Hence, I refused many attempts on the part of my family to go for an upgrade. Truth be told, I broke out in cold sweat at the thought of a change for I believed that my car wore its dents with pride and I couldn’t imagine myself in the driver’s seat of any other vehicle. I have come a long way driving on the Bangalore roads from the time that I had to get out of my seat through the passenger door as I had parked it too close to a tree trunk and reversing was not something I could do before midnight on that busy road. Except for certain hiccoughs, my driving skills did not lead to any major mishaps for which I am ever grateful to my wine red car.
A nervous driver at best, the Hebbal flyover which I had to necessarily traverse, was a source of constant nightmare. The heavy duty traffic tests even the best among drivers. I am like a doggie on the dashboard nervously looking at the car in front of me and the two wheelers who were born to hound and crowd me as I negotiate the road with clammy hands and thudding heart. This car of mine never stalled despite my furious braking and accelerating with jerks and starts like a yesteryear’s diesel operated generator which needed to be coaxed to start.
So great is my nervousness driving on that blessed flyover, that I start belting out the songs being played on my radio the minute I get off that flyover. I am not sure if my car would have preferred the jarring tones of shifting gears to my bellowing but it never did complain.
We both had plenty of adventures together. There was a time when the car was so peeved that it decided to go backwards at a level crossing the minute I released the handbrake and no amount of my pleading made it want to go ahead. Before I was lynched by the impatient motorists behind me, a good Samaritan and I decided to exchange our respective vehicles and I got his scooter across the road safely and he my car. After that one incident, my car realized that I was willing to let it go into other hands and decided to behave or maybe I learnt the art of half clutch and half accelerator and the car did the rest.
As the time to bid it goodbye has approached, I am ever grateful to that hardy car that made me feel warm the minute I buzzed open the door. We both had some delectable times driving across the roads in Bangalore honking energetically at every curb side stone. This car was the one in which both my children learnt to drive and my daughter drove in it all the way home from her workplace on the other side of the city. She too had a penchant for belting out songs but she did know the lyrics! We did have to coax the car as it aged but the diligent service it was subjected to helped it age gracefully. It was a great companion when my daughter and I went for her wedding shopping with the former wedging it anywhere and everywhere. She was like the auto drivers of Bangalore, managing to get in the wheels of the car in almost all available openings.
I would miss my car for sure for I did learn to navigate the famed Bangalore roads in it.
A truncated version was published in The Hindu