Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
Something to say?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Cars and Me

I have this theory that our cars say something about us. Particularly the inside of the cars. Kitta's  dilapidated chariot is full of empty KFC cartons and coke cans. Mixed in with that there are papers with Maths scribbles all over them in his thin handwriting. Raghu prefers to take a bus if he can and leaves his car behind. Nothing of him is to be seen in his sixteen year old Micra because he is rarely in it. It is often being used by Manju. Manju's Landrover has little-girl things belonging to her daughter: magazines with ends curling from the damp, odd bits of Asha's toys and books abandoned after reading. My Honda, also 16 years old,  smells of compost and garden things. There is black mud in the back seat and fallen leaves.The Honda is now gone to the car graveyard.

   In 2009, I went to my local garage in India to sell my Tata Safari. It was now eleven years old. The owner of the garage was a family friend and he said it gently: you might get a sale if you paste lots of hundred rupee notes on it. Since then I've rented cars when I go to India. Much simpler.

   My first car in the UK was an old Morris Minor of green-black hue, the colour of cow-dung Indians would say, which I bought from the Lab Assistant at the school where I worked. I loved it. It cost me £240 pounds. Cheap you'd think. But my take-home salary was 120 pounds a month, so I had to borrow from the bank and repay painfully at £20 pounds a month. The car was well worth it and lasted for six years until a man in a hurry drove straight into it at a cross-road in Basildon. He apologised profusely, admitted liability and two days later changed his mind. He owed me for a very long time.

   I was also in a hurry: I was taking my son to his Cambridge entrance exams and I could not hang around. A policeman visited me the evening of the accident for information. He wouldn't talk to me. Naturally. A woman and Indian at that. What would she know about cars? forget the fact that she was driving. So he harassed my son till he got fed up. 'Why don't you talk to my Mum?' he shouted. 'She was driving.'

   The Morris was a write-off and I needed wheels to get me from Laindon to Wickford and back every day. I bought a three-year old Ford Escort for £1600. I had gone up in the world, courtesy of the 1000 pounds Kitta saved up from his holiday job at the Social Security, at nineteen pounds a week. Riches! I kept the car and drove it into the ground. My friend, Bill, often borrowed it and when he was 87, he drove the Escort straight into another vehicle. It scared him so much he handed in his driving license. He died two years later of a stroke. He often said he may have had a black-out when he had that accident.

   My next venture was a VW Polo, again three years old. It went on for ever. Meanwhile I had gone overseas to work for the British Council and my children were all drivers. The British Council let me play with one Landrover after another, the short ones and the long ones. I carried so many colleagues around in them that I sometimes had to kick the back door in to get it to close. I fell in love with Landrovers, lazy hand brakes, leaking roofs and all. 

   On the road to Gbendembu, 27 kilometres from Makeni, the path was narrow and it was rocks all round. Huge boulders on the track and even bigger ones on either side. I did that trip once a week. As the landrover tilted at 40 degrees, I could rely on a flat tyre. I carried a long iron rod with me to put into the spanner to act as a lever. I jumped on the rod to undo the nuts on the wheel. Then I would call the urchins in the neighbouring huts to help me lift the tyre.

   Today I avoid driving but I like to think I can still do it if I want to. Like so many other things that have gone with time: walking fast, chasing after Asha, runng up the stairs, carrying the shopping...

   Let's not go there.





No comments:

Post a Comment