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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Chapter 7 - Treasure Hunt and a Hi to Padmini

Days were rolling by in Mumbai with work ,college. Thanks to Mumbai’s transportation , Herby was seldom used except for some short hops here and there. There was this time when Herby would max cover a distance of 150 odd kilometres over 2 months. And even those came out of trips to relatives place or the temple.

Boring days were nearing when one Sunday morning I caught an ad in the paper . Maruti Suzuki treasure hunt.It read “ Inviting all maruti owners to take part in this treasure hunt in Mumbai’ The hunt began at 8 Am and I saw the clock , It read 8 30 .

I screamed across to dad in the other room , pops treasure hunt and mum was just getting ready to start Sunday cooking . 30 minutes later I had succeeded in getting the three of us out onto herby filled with sandwiches and water bottles to go on the treasure hunt. The treasure hunt aim is to finish some 13 odd clues or checkpoints and involved some lucky draws for the fastest completion.We registered ourselves and I found my dad signing some rules stating maruti not responsible for any accident which may occur etc and that speed limit will be checked between 2 checkpoints. Max permissible speed is 60kmph.I was miffed hearing that , 60kmph ,, nonsense Mumbai roads especially on eastern express highway and western express highway we could touch 80kmph.

Nevertheless we headed off on our treasure hunt , a lovely Sunday morning and sun out , mum making sandwiches in the back seat and me trying to guess the treasure hunts. Couple of them very pretty easy but they were spanned so across Mumbai that it involved us going from one end to the other . It was so much fun as at every checkpoint we were given goodies like car vouchers teddy bears and water cool drinks . Herby for the first time had a number sticker ! I was so proud because till then I have only seen race cars with numbers on the side. We had caps and maps and boy was it one heck of an adventure. We could finish most of the checkpoints except one which talked about a go karting circuit. We never have been to a go karting circuit in Mumbai , and I wasn’t able to recollect the name where It was located. We stopped for fuel when asked the fuel guy , if he knows any go karting circuit . He directed us to some place on the western suburb. Reaching there we dint find nay checkpoint and that’s one I got the name . I shouted in exclamation HAKONE! in eastern suburb. And thus begin our rather fiery drive from one end of Mumbai to the other .Having reached there we realised that we were running short of time . The race finishes by 4Pm. And we were there at 3 15 PM . The last checkpoint was the Mumbai CST station, a prominent heritage site. From where we were, that was a good 20 kilometres and has to reach it in 40 minutes.

We pondered a little but if we should go home as we have to cross home and reach CST. We dint give up and raced away , with 2 minutes to spare we reached CST and we were scouting for the checkpoint , the last one for us to complete the race. I was scanning around near the station and my dad had almost pulled over to the left side of the road and Herby was just about rolling , when I shouted spotting the checkpoint on the other side of the road . Dad turned to look at where I spotted and the next instant , crash and bang! The little kid screaming away and dad too momentarily lost in it , with Herby rolling and we smashed into a Fiat or better known as Premier Padmini.

Well a little scene with people coming around us and dad coming out to see the damage , well the speed in which we were caused no damage to the Fiat , a rock solid car made out of solid metal from the 1970. Herby on the other hand had some damage , my dad did a quick check and noticed that the radiator took a little beating and touching the fan . He quickly shut the bonnet and went back to the seat ,and we looked in the direction of the checkpoint , and disaster , They were just packing up in a bike and going off .

My dad not wanting to give up as we had come so far , did a quick turn and raced towards them already moving on their bikes. Herby with his fan was making weird noises taka taka taka whirr whirrrr whirrrrrrr with the engine running and the front grill shaking as it lost it bolts and the bonnet was only holding it . I think this is where we broke the 60 rule and went ahead catching up to the guys in the bike. We got our last checkpoint stamped and goodie bag, and proceeded home. Herby was making the whirr noises and mum asked to cut the speed down. 40 minutes later home sweet home. Herby went to the mechanic the next day and got himself treated and back with the radiator and fan fixed,

To this day me and dad have a hearty laugh on how herby by just touching Padmini, took such an impact, we keep saying even today, we just said Hi to a Padmini and we got a trashed radiator.

Chapter 6 - Winding roads and freaked out hands

After months of squabbling with my dad that we have not been on any long road trip . We decided to take Herby out to Pune and Mahableshwar meeting relatives in Pune.
Dad and Son taking inspiration of being dressed holiday style , went to the nearby clothes store and bought ourselves nice baggy half pants , kind of a trekking half shorts.
Cometh the day and I was all mad, doing rain checks and helping out dad with herby .Soon we were off in Herby, clad in our shorts with mum doing the eateries duty in the backseat and occasional back street driving too. She would go often noticing the speedometer ‘Shankar – reduce speed.
First time on the Mumbai Pune expressway and one hell of a road it is . Perhaps one of the best roads in India when we travelled, 6 lane on both sides and long and long. And that was the first time I realised what Herby could do. Little into the Pune highway post lunch, when my mum dozed off, I was chatting away noticing the Volvo buses go past us and the scenes around. I took some time off to notice the speedometer after a brief stop at a toll gate .My dad shifted gears swiftly and I was glaring at the speedometer , For some god damn reason I had the movie Speed running in my head, especially the dialogue go below 50 the bus blows ! And there was a scene where the bus jumps of a bridge at 50 miles roughly I guess around 90kms. I wondered if Herby can be in such situation and go fast. My eyes from a little peck was suddenly locked onto the Speedo , 70 , the needle gradually moving beyond the half way Speedo to 80kmph and then inching towards 90kmph . I noticed that 2 more pegs and we will be in the three figure mark. Can herby do it?
High end cars , all zipping past and suddenly we were zipping too , 91 , 92 , 93 , 95 and in front of us are the cars much more faster , comfortable . and then the next moment the glee on my face , an old car on the right lane overtaking a brand new car and boy 100KMPH , My face light up and like a young kid way , went with a sense of achievement , haa I raced you ! The old car is still stuff and boy what a feeling!!!!
The sun was beating down on us and in front me and dad had no protection thanks to the half pants, we eventually put towels on our laps to prevent getting roasted. 3 hours later we were up on the winding roads on the hill station. While going up there was a road which said , Suicide point , I coaxed my dad into driving there and soon we were off on this narrow road twisty and turning . Reaching there was a piece of cake but on the way back , there was something in store and my dad apparently has vertigo , some kind off fear of heights of head spinning thing . The reason , well while going there he was facing the mountain side and hence did not have an idea of depth , however while going back the drivers side faces the valley below and in good depth too , he freaked out , I could sense his palms sweating. And horrible me , to me all this is adventure , here my dad is struggling to be in senses and drive and I am shouting , yayy wat a deep valley and depth , super scene .
My mum screamed , Shyam – will you shut up . I promptly did and after few minutes we were back on the main road. My dad stopped and was panting away drinking water. Of course that was the last of Herby on off beaten tracks.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Chapter 5- illegally out of the colony into the city

By now , my driving was a lot more better and daily rounds in colony have enabled me to perfect my driving . The result was that I could now go in all 4 gears , turn the steering and do all this listening to music on my Mp3 player. Of course no more gate banging.

The itchy hands were now quite bored or driving around the colony to be honest and soon there was a period of time when I preferred to sit back in the passenger seat and enjoy the road, until one fine day my aunt was coming to Mumbai and by an early morning train. She was asking me direction in the taxi to reach our home.

Ummmm.. ummmmmm my brain went whizzing . Chalukya express arrival 7 30 Am at Dadar . Speaking on the phone , with herby in front of me .My brain was now doing its weird thoughts of the road etc and in the momentary thinking , probably I could feel herby too standing there and talking to me , as if to say ‘Hey Shyam , morning no traffic psst psst , listen 4th gear more than 40km. And in the next second I told my aunt , aunty no taxi , I will come and pick u up. She said oh ok.

The following night , sleep wasn’t seen anywhere near me , the feeling of going out against all odds, dad in Hyderabad, mum in Rajkot and it was only me and herby. I used to get up every 2 hours and check my watch , is it 6.30 , is it 6 30 . At last 6.30 arrived and for the first time ever like a warrior getting out into the battle field to face the opponents , I crossed the main gate of our colony to merge onto the main road . 2 minutes later I was on the Eastern Express Highway towards the City , 4 lane , no traffic .

Need for speed music was back in head , this time in full swing , moving along flyovers and passing trucks and taxis and going at 80kmph , I was in full glee with my lips not closing , yeehawww , I am on my way to Dadar . Of course there were a lot of factors influencing my decision to go out. Primarily because the roads are very wide and not narrow , and no signals to stop as we go above in flyovers and morning traffic is less.

Soon I was on my way back picking up my aunt , a little jittery as by now the traffic on the road had increased manifold and I dare not tell my aunt that this is first time I am driving on the main roads. 30 minutes later we were home and Herby was parked back.

Its like the movies , when I gave a little pat with my hand on the bonnet and said thank you. I did it . And moved away, few days later when my dad heard this , instead of reacting , it ended up being positive with me now officially given permission no head out of colony under adult supervision, hehe ! Well actually dad in the passenger seat.

Well which now means that all the short hop journeys to the market and nearby friendsplace , I get to drive and my fathers keep saying to our relatives , ahh I now sit back , Shyam is the driver . I proudly smile and since I am more involved in Herby , I do my fair bit of cleaning Herby and ensuring that the windscreen is devoid of dust .All for another shot at driving. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Chapter 4 - Herby goes to workshop and Gate crashes

By now it was a known fact that I was driving the car in the colony and doing my scratches and breakings. My dad did not seem to mind these little mishaps, much to my irritation . He is very fond of Herby , but this non angry reaction irked me.

Few days later I got my answer , the reason he was not bothered about the little dents and breakage was due to the fact that Herby was going for a full makeover and away for 2 weeks to the workshop. The workshop was not very far off just a little away from the house towards the main road. Every day on my way out to the main road I would look for Herby and how he is . The first few days he was stripped of all lighting and fitments and lying with wires dangling on the side of the road parked in slush. I couldn’t do much as there was no parking space. Soon after a week, he was stripped of his doors, the bonnet and the hatch and his paint scrubbed out .I wondered what it is to be a car being like that.

Things got even worse after a few days, when he was now not on his own feet, and was supported by stone blocks. And finally one fine day after 2 weeks of being in the workshop comes out a Milk white painted Herby, completely polished and shiny black bumpers, all dents taken out, new headlamps, tail lamps ,new indicators. Parked in his new parking spot right in front of my balcony , ahh for a few days I forgot the girls in my colony to bird watch , I would just admire Herby with his shiny shiny looks.

Now of course the human mind doesn’t keep quiet and I was yet again tempted to take him out. Wow , click goes the key on the door and when I open it , could smell the fresh smell of polish , the smell of fresh oil and new rubber mats . Seat covers. Next with great excitement I turn the ignition and vroom this silent engine wake up . Not the rattling engine I knew. I kept the engine running , opened the bonnet trying to see what is new.

As if I am a great mechanic , I peeked into the bonnet to see everything now fresh smelling , few shiny parts which I assume are new. And an engine so silent . So much was my excitement , you could probably have transformers move opening music playing in the background with this boy awestruck at a machine. Back in the drivers seat and this time the fast paced Need for speed music comes into mind .Just like the game , a new car means more power , more power means fast and fast means covering my colony in less time.

Haha you can imagine the scene , teenage kid , a car revamped , my colony road is my race track and I am the only one ready to trash the lap record and NFS music in my head. I took the car out racing through my colony and as I was driving , I heard my name being called out , it was one of our colony uncles. I said hi and the next moment in front of me is our colony gate closed and bolted down to the road and the speed breaker just in front of it . What happens next till date I cannot seem to fathom to this day.

Front of me is a 2 ton metal gate bolted down freshly painted in red and black , the momentary Hi to my uncles resulted in me losing my concentration on the road and before I could realise to stop , the car went over the Speed breaker , crash bang and ding ding ding ding the metal gate is thrown open vibrating and rattling and the car stops.

That day I think is my first experience of the heart missing a beat . Herby just out of the workshop , my dad himself has not driven it , the shiny metal gate crashed into by this little 900 Kg car. I could already hear and feel my dad screaming and possibly hitting me . The society people complaining and the broken gate.

I got out of the car shuddering and panicking to first check on the damage to herby. Nothing , all I see is a car whose front wheel is on the speed breaker stopped with a tilted angle ,the gate wide open . Could not believe my eyes, how is this possible ? I hit a 2 ton gate with such force it actually opened and here is a car which doesn’t seem to have even a scratch . To be honest I expected the front end to be gone with the bonnet crushed in and the headlamps knocked out. Throwing my ego aside I checked and checked and went round and round herby trying to see some damage. Alas there was none . To this date I am dumbstruck as to how there is no damage.

After a good 30 minutes of doing round round, I gave up and went back to the driver seat to turn the ignition , ok I must admit no need for speed music . I could only imagine whacking of the belt and me in one corner of my sofa with face red horribly scolded and given a trashing of my life. Herby roared to life and I think I heard my brain speak and ask , why are you fooling me ? Arent you hurt and if yes where are you hurt ?.No answer , of course what was I expecting ? Herby to speak in English … obviously not.

I parked Herby and next went to investigate the gate. Seemed all fine and I had more confidence that the 2 ton gate just opened and nothing else. And then on the right gate , was the bolt which was to the ground completely bent in right angle. And of course the bolt doing its fair bit digging into the road. I thought I could get away , but unfortunately the uncle had seen it all and also noticed the bolt gone.

He came upto me and said…. that bolt needs to be replaced !!! With a ferocious tone . We will send the notice to your father he bellowed. Gone ! I felt my first belt trashing on my back already. I ran home and called him up and when I narrated the events , he too was steaming and yet amazed that no damage to Herby. He did not believe it either . Later he came in the evening did the exact round round round of Herby and I was grinning , hehe ,he to couldn’t find any damage and was equally amazed . And clarified with me stating “ So you drove the car through that metal gate which was closed and nothing has happened’? . I shamefully trying to hide my laugh said errr YES.

All is well ends well , the bolt was damaged at 600 rupees , pretty small considering what could have been more if Herby was Damaged. Deal with my dad that this incident will not be told to Mum with great importance and that I will continue driving.

Chapter 3 -Juggling the turning and breaking the lighting.

After my first 4th gear shot with Herby , it was soon time to get it back to base. Of course this again is a different challenge. I have to know to park Herby in its exact location to avoid dads suspicion. Boy was it quite a task , well for starters yes I do know how to drive but still haven’t got the judgemental capabilities of its size , especially when the parking lot is narrow. Well All I had to do was drive it in straight to the end.

I did get away for a couple of day with my antics of driving around and parking it correctly. There was one broken flower pot which was my park mark , hehehhe.
I would leave it when I get out and ensure that I park it right there. Of course it does disappear some times , but yea was lucky enough to get away with dad not noticing the difference in location, ahh well just a few inches here and there.

And then came the day , where desire dragged the dum dum for trouble. Desperately wanting to drive , I took herby out and then when I wanted to come back 2 cars parked .Uh oh … was my reaction , and since I was not confident about the judgement to pass through the 2 cars . I decided to go roundabout the other side and come , which meant that I will be coming in the opposite direction and utterly opposite to the usual way Herby would be parked.

Well having said that , I drove herby through the opposite side and reached the parking , of course not to get it back in normal direction , I had to do some juggling with the steering . I think that day if I had a 100 aircons running I would still be sweating . Forward Backward , forward backward ! forward backward , and then since my judgement was bad looking back. I would stop get out of the car see the space behind , and repeat the same. I probably looked like the biggest clut reversing a car , and then with my patience running out I did the one last turn to put it in the right direction when I heard a screeeeeeeeecchhh and the sound of crunch . Disaster , the last turn in a hurry ended up me driving herby too close to the wall on the left breaking the side indicator and making a nice straight line ripping the white paint on the right side.

Well , horrified at the scratch and the broken pieces of the indicator , I rushed back home to bring a wet cloth and here I go scrubbing scrubbing to make the line not visible . I rummaged through the shoe rack to remove the polish dad uses to polish the dashboard. I said to myself, its car polish , it should work inside and outside and took it and polished that area hoping the line would go, well after some nonsensical attempts , I was satisfied that the line is not so distinct.

In all the hungama , I totally missed the fact that the broken indicator lamp was on the ground. Next morning my dad went near the car and called me over , I went trying to put up a decent smiling face , and he said ‘ So you have been driving around I notice ….. I replied er no appa just starting , stopping and generally. He retorted back , you don’t have to say anything , see those bits of indicator lamp on the floor and smiled , I know you have been driving around , the watchman’s been telling your driving in afternoons and fast on the turns. I put up a straight face and wished he saw his watch and released that he is getting late for office. Thankfully he did and moved to catch his 9.00 AM local train.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Chapter 2 - Mumbai – 16th year and my first tryst with Herby

Until we reached Mumbai from Jaipur , I was never behind the steering wheel , though me sitting in the passenger seat would notice every move of my dad driving Herby . My dad did give me Herby to drive in Jaipur at the age of 15 , I still couldn’t get my clutch and first gear right and ended up breaking the clutch plate. After which the next time I dared to sit in the steering wheel was in Mumbai. We lived in a gated community in Mumbai and I had more access to Herby than ever before. And with teenage adrenalin running in my blood and seeing kids drive cars, I too fell for the desires and wanted to drive . Alas my first big problem, the parking spot which was allocated to us was way in front and with the lane narrow the only way out to the road was to reverse all the way back. Thus began my biggest dilemma, if I needed to get my hands on Herby, unlike all others who would go forward my journey began backward.

Unlike Jaipur I did drive the car forward in the 1st and 2nd gears; this was about using the reverse gear  I still remember the first day of me trying to get Herby out . I go out with all my enthusiasm to get Herby driven and my first few attempts were horrible , I would put the vehicle in reverse and as soon I realise the clutch ,katak jerk dum Herby would stop. Which is completely my mistake because I am not releasing the clutch properly ,and accelerating on time. After 15 maniac attempts of endless starting and stalling in the wee hours of afternoon , the grandmother from the next door house came out and asked , son what exactly are you trying to do. I lied stating that dad wanted me to take the car out to clean. Eventually after 3 days if endless starting and stalling I did move backwards and finally onto the road .Eureka and the first joy of driving all alone in the afternoon hours in the colony, flipping the gears 1,2,3 and when your adrenalin rushes . You hear your angel remind you about dad saying 4th gear only in 40kmph, the evil mind saying go for it Shyam , hit the 4th gear . Of course to achieve this I have to drive in my colony at 40kmph and with no idea of what is herby’s braking power and whether I would actually stop. 2 PM one hot afternoon , I stopped Herby facing the longest straight section of our colony , a distance of maybe 500 metres. The feeling in me was ecstatic , until then I have always gone in speeds of 40kmph or more  in Need for Speed , my much loved game on my pc and boy was I good at it, today I am at the wheel of a real car, a open road..

I would feel my palms sweat , but yea 1,2 , 3 and on the corss of 40 I hit the 4th only to find Herby going silent much to my amazement., well matter achieved and then uh oh ! The road turning brake brake brake , I guess that’s what I was not prepared for , simultaneous movement of brake and steering and changing gears. To much to ask for , I put the car in neutral and shut the engine and slammed the brake. Hoooorayy my first driving at 40th plus my first impression of rubber on the road. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Herby – A relationship for miles and miles to go

Chapter 1 

Some time in 1997 –  The train chugs into Lucknow Station after a long really long journey 29 hours from Chennai. After my window seat experiences of being a little kid watching the tracks and train go clickety clack and to add to the icing , I was going to see my father in vacation time and this time its special because we have a Car . Stepping out of the station I see this little white gleaming maruti 800 bearing the registration DL3C F 7596. Like a kid bursting with energy , I asked what’s with the Delhi registration . Soon I was in the back seat being driven back home.

Thus begins the story of a car and the journey along with it .A car which saw through our different phases of life right from the first argument between mum and dad on it being crashed into a wall , the next time being driven into a Corsa by myself and yet came trudging along every transfer of ours across states. The car now has a name and is called Herby and I will be referring to car as him because today he is probably the only non living thing which speaks with me and vice versa . Sounds mad ? , well lets put it this way , for some a car is just a medium of transportation , takes people places and put you in a different strata of society oh the so called upper middle class. To me he is a friend an other side of me none have seen or will know until today .

I must admit , that I too was like that recognising the car as a machine which elevated our status symbol at the age of 14.And today when I think of the things I have done with Herby over the period of years , I only wonder and say , he sure put up with me and my tantrums. Back in Lucknow to the year 1997 m herby was maruti 800 bought second-hand from the company , a 1996 model 800cc engine and the perfect family car. The car that took us places, fun frolic , could take 8 people with 2 siting in the dikky with rear hatch open . Ahh well those were the days , the days when used to have dinner at 10 , run to the only Baskin Robbins in Lucknow at 12 AM midnight to have ice cream. My dad was a simple man and thus Herby did’nt get any fancy stereos or Air conditioning and till date doesn’t have the air conditioning or any sort of sun film .With the family being travel junkies , herby soon too followed along with us in the travelling sprit ,Herby has been driven to Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Jhansi Jaipur, Ranthanbore, Sariska, Mumbai, Pune Mahableshwar and then what we thought was the final run to Hyderabad .

Hyderabad is where my love for Herby begins , where man and machine truly talked to each other and Yes I do believe that cars do talk to you and are your perfect companions.
Reaching Hyderabad in 2005 from Mumbai , was my first stint with Herby over long distance when I accompanied my dad in driving it down . Of course I did start driving in Mumbai when I turned 16 .

                                                                                                            To be continued