Saturday, April 03, 2010

A family member departs

I carry vivid memories of the proud day when my dad proudly drove home our family's first car - The Maruti 800 - after a wait of more than 3 years, one makeover of the model already done and at a price tag more than double of what we believed it will be available at. Today when I read the news of its "good bye" from showrooms and a five year plan to phase it out - I am full of - well - Nostalgia.
It was a dream come true. A middle Class Indian home of a hard working honest bank officer could only dream of a car in those days and we used to look at the premier padmini of our businessman uncle (or the ambassadors of our friends Govt. servent parents) with envy.

Maruti 800 was a pathbreaker in many ways the least important of which was that it expanded choice or quality in the car market. The most important was that it gave a lot of Indians confidence, hope and happiness. Ours was one such proud family. I still remember, just days after we brought this beauty home, we were offered Rs. 15000 more and my dad finalised the deal (that was a big sum - think almost 20% return in a week's time). Something rang inside me and I obstinately refused that the family should sell the car. After some persuing my parents gave in to my teenage demand - half because they loved me and half because they loved her (only that the money offered was tempting). That day she became a family member.

We spent time together - lots of it. And she was faithful. In her twenty plus years of bonding she must have given us only a couple of failed journeys - that too because we did not know how to maintain her well. We never provided her with an AC and her first music system was given to her about a decade later. But unlike other family members we never fought or envied each other and she never complained. We just lived together. My father took care of her as his third child and we never complained.

Later we purchased more cars (our second was a Maruti Zen). However, nothing would replace our love for the "original red 800" as it was known in those days. During the last five years of her stay with her, many offers to buy her would come to us and my father after negotiating the deal would always find the price about Rs. 10,000 less than his expectations. Long after we finally let her go (I tried but could not write "sold her"), everytime we shall see a Red Maruti 800 and my mother & sister would cry like babies - see .....

I was told in my childhood that Maruti was Sanjay Gandhi's pet project. If thats true, As a citizen of India, I forgive this younger son of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the emergency or his political "dadagiri" for he made millions of Indians feel empowered and happy by dreaming this project.

This car also was a mirror to Indian Babus who would not let fresh air in by blocking every thing or every idea which could offer Indians more and better choice. If ambassador was the logo for Indian Babus - Maruti 800 achieved that position for the common man of India.

I know that later generations or my child would not understand the emotion in this post and that history books might not give this car the space it deserves in our annals - so here is my bit to a pride of our times and our generation (I sound old today - may be thats what happens when a family member departs). Thanks !! 800 for what you did to our family, millions of families like that of our and for what you did to India - the country.