In the Driver’s Seat

When I was four years old, I remember leaving my dinner half-eaten and frantically running down three flights of stairs because I had heard a very distinctive sound. The sound of a brand-new four-cylinder engine, which was the beating heart of the then newly launched Daewoo Cielo. It belonged to my aunt and they had just brought it home from the showroom. Finished in an emerald green colour; ribbon and all, it looked majestic, coming up the drive-way. My mother and father came running down too, probably thinking that I had lost my mind. All the way down, I kept screaming “Anutai has bought a new Cielo! Anutai has bought a new car!”

We got our first car when I was just a baby. A navy blue Maruti 800. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it used to get the job done. We used that little car to go everywhere, it even stepped in for a 4×4 when we went to the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. I remember going to the showroom to take delivery of the car and the first thing I did was jump into the driver’s seat and press the horn.

Cars have always been a really big part of my life and it doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. Even in school, I used to be really bad at my science subjects and frequently found myself getting distracted. My teachers always told me that I had it in me and that I only had to concentrate. If I put in that little bit of effort, I would be able to get better grades. Well, that never really happened. I guess I’m trying to say that even though school wasn’t a highlight of my life, and that I’d rather forget my years there, cars were always there for me. No matter what, I could always just step into the little box in my head and think about cars. My escape from reality.

I would stand on the footpath, looking at the head lights of cars far away while waiting at my bus stop, trying to guess what cars were coming up to pass us by. My eyes would dart left and right, as if I was watching a tennis match.

We spent about four years in Germany, the car capital of the world and that only strengthened my love for cars. Stuttgart is the home of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, with both the factories within driving distance, we visited their museums a couple of times and even went on two factory tours at Mercedes. Once of the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class, and the other of their AMG facilities. A few blocks from home, we had the showrooms of Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, and Bugatti to name a few. My father and I would go to the Lamborghini showroom as often as we could, just to have a look around.

I remember watching the Murcielago replace the Diablo. The day it came into the showroom, the crowd that had come to watch Lamborghini’s new monster V12 find a home for the next decade. Watching a Ferrari Enzo drive around my neighbourhood and seeing the Bugatti Veyron in the flesh for the first time. These experiences though fleeting, left a deep impact on me.

Even today, my mind wanders through the wonderful world that is motoring. A car for me symbolises freedom. With that much power under your right foot, there is nowhere you can’t go. The whole world unravels, all linked by grey ribbons of tarmac. Given a chance, I would just keep driving. That would be the dream. When travelling in the country, I always prefer going by car. Mumbai trips have happened thrice, all of them by car. Driving your own car has a certain charm to it. Yes it will take more time and you will be wasting a day, but the freedom it gives you when you are in that city is worth it. And, cars aren’t limited on space, you can take five suitcases as tall as you are if needed and still have space for more.

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My 18th birthday was my happiest and also my loneliest, for the most part. It was a weekday, I had decided to take a day-off from college to get my licence done at the Regional Transport Office (RTO) as early as possible. It took a while, but I finally got my test scheduled for that afternoon. My test was more of a joke than anything else. The person who was supposed to look at my performance was busy stuffing himself with a fruit bowl, while talking to a group of friends after showing up two hours late. Well, a month later, I finally got the licence and took my car out for the first time on my own.

Subconsciously, I always seem to be on the look-out for distinctive car sounds or cars which look different. I sometimes annoy my friends while having conversations because, I randomly tune out when trying to listen to or look at interesting cars.

Now though, I have got my own car, sort of anyway. Well, it is in my name, but is still the family car. It is a fourteen year old Honda City Vtec that I really enjoy driving it because it is basically a back to basics, no-nonsense machine which has no electronic aids whatsoever. They say that if you never look back to take a second glance at your car after you have parked it, you’ve bought the wrong car. I agree with that. Now, two years later, I still can’t take my eyes off it.

Cars will always be a big part of my life and this bond seems to be getting stronger and stronger and doesn’t seem like a bad relationship to have. What the future holds for me is unknown, but I am pretty sure that it will involve cars.

 

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A car nut and a journalism student.

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