Tuesday, 2 June 2015

We are losing our Zen



Part-by-part and day-by-day our Zen is going away from us. Remember Maruti Zen, the oldest model? It’s a 15-year-old car I got married to, after my husband bought it as a young adult with his father’s hard-earned money.  We know it’s going away because every month it needs to be upped, with a part needing replacement or some other dying permanently. The engine is coughing with over-use, protesting at every ignition now. The belts screech as if in pain every time the engine starts. The rear windows are getting jammed like arthritic knees. Mysterious groans of ageing are heard through every trip. And the AC? It’s 45 degrees in Delhi, what can you expect?

Some of you will not even remember what this car looks like, while others may have missed noticing these tiny cars amidst the monsters ruling the road roost. The only people who do give it public attention are the two cops at the Gol Dak-khana round-about. Every once a week, en route Connaught Place, they stop our Zen to ask with a smile, ‘RC, please? Just checking if this should have been scrapped already.’ Confidently, the Registration Certificate is shown to the uniformed men. It’s not time. It's in its twilight days, not good night time yet!

Ah, our Zen has had its days! 

Once upon a time a boy just entering college with a car was hot property for hitch-hikers, and his parents the ideal providers, God bless them! The Zen has driven his family to countless places. Then, it made space for me like a loving mother-in-law does. The front seat became mine, the gear-shaft the resting place for my hand, over his. (Oh, why did they have to ban tinted window screens?) This small car has been filled beyond capacity like our fridges, with a chirpy family going to Mussoorie, or a couple enjoying the beauty of silence driving on the green Ridge Road, in Delhi. We have even shifted our first 'home' from NACEN, Faridabad to West Delhi over three choc-a-block trips to and fro, without a truck! The Zen has been a cause for neighbour's envy too, though only when it came to finding a parking slot in fancy Khan Market. It has also stood by us in our most difficult times, say speeding to a hospital in Dehradun, 270 kilometers away in the middle of the night. I remember I was in my second trimester then. And it made us reach just in time, which it still does, but then the nagging thought remains that it has numbered days on its hand.

Why are my husband and I losing sleep over the inevitable change of car? We must be like those typical middle class kids from the 90s ...

… kids who knew not what class meant, except the one we were studying in in school with tenacious loyalty to our sections – A, B, C. We were so free of frills, that a string attached to a polythene or possessing a pile of the flattest pithoo stones in the colony meant having enough. No, having it all! No one was sitting and comparing who had a fancier Geometry case, or who wore branded shoes. Old habits die hard. While the world gradually started speeding past our Zen in shinier cars, we stuck to truly feeling that we have what we need. 

Did our Zen keep us grounded? It did literally, because it’s a low chamber and speed breakers are not for them! Close family started hinting it’s time we felt embarrassed and the salaam of guards at Gymkhana continues halfhearted. As for us? We still feel free of it all, just like we kept our Zen free of labels (even that red ‘Government of India’ sticker sarkari people slap on their very personal wagons). Freedom, from the race towards glamour and social mobility that is supposed to go only one way – upwards, is delicious. It's the most important ingredient for Contentment. But you must think us crazy, isn’t it?

Our son has with utmost happiness over-turned the ‘Baby on Board’ to now visibly read ‘Child on Board’ on the rear windscreen. He loves our Zen, calls it a racing car, but doesn’t love that he’s no longer a valid applicant for sitting in my lap in the front seat. The other day some friends I made in the world of blogging were over for the first time. While I was changing my shoes to go drop them to the Metro station, I over-heard my 4-year-old telling them a story. ‘And then, papa pushed the car and mumma sat inside to start it. I sat on the bonnet.’ This was a few weeks back, right outside the Café Coffee Day on Janpath. We had to change the Zen’s battery; a bright green replaced the older one. I smiled at my friends then, not knowing if they were contemplating taking a rickshaw to the station instead, but happy to learn that the kid had formed a memory – and his too, like ours, was about riding high on our Zen.

That 15-year-rule of scrapping may not be valid soon, but time is ripe to change our loyal friend for a new one. There’s a child to be picked from school every day. There are social obligations to attend to every weekend. And there are emergencies … ones we never see coming at hours when all we can do is depend on the car to make us reach where we just need to.  The old has to make way for the new. Has to. And we’re at it. Looking and looking. 

But apart from nostalgia for the simpler, string-free life, and the trembling feeling of seeing out-turned empty pockets, we’re scared about another thing... Will we become runners in the urban rat race of features-packed swankiness? Will a car become more to us than just a means of transport – reliable, comfortable and a necessity? 

Will we lose, with our Zen, the zen-like freedom with which we drove this mini-dinosaur with not a care in the world? Now that remains to be seen. The only definitive for now? 

That we are losing our Zen. And it feels strangely sad.




27 comments:

  1. I could never understand how and why people love their cars so much. My dad loves his Zen so much that he thinks all the new cars are not as reliable and robust as his old Zen which he takes out for a drive, once a week. Maybe, like you it's the memories and nostalgia that's attached to the car which he's not yet ready to let go. I think I should make him read this post :)

    As for me, I think I need to buy a car of my own to understand this feeling! :)

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    1. My dad thought so too for his old Fiat. Thankfully, when the kids refused to push it uphill in Rajpur, he changed for the better. We love our Zen too, Akanksha. As oyu may have noticed.
      Oh it would be great if he reads this.
      Zen-to-Zen connection. :D
      Thanks for the twitter share.

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  2. How intelligently you used your Zen for zen moments. Always a pleasure to read you.
    My husband felt the same when his first Ambassador bought from his hard earned money was about to go. He said, his first car was like his first girlfriend.

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    1. Always happy to know you liked what I wrote. Your appreciation matters a lot!
      Your husband's reaction to and further analysis of his 'first girlfriend' fits my father's with his Fiat. AAX it was called, thanks to the number-plate. I am sure you were glad when the 'girl friend' left.
      Thanks, Alka.

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  3. Lovely way to make a much needed point on being happy with something and not feeling the pressure to upgrade and shine. Also gratitude for a vehicle that witnessed so many years of good times.

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    1. Interestingly, I did not realise I was making a larger point when I was simply telling everyone the news from our lives. But I guess that's how we all connect with complete strangers...
      We are full of gratitude for it. (I have used 'we' in place of 'I' because after so many discussions with my husband we know each other's minds and are but one on this :)
      Thank you, Lata. Good to find you here!

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  4. I can relate to your thoughts. These days most of us have use and throw policy. People simply cannot comprehend attachment to a car. But those who are sensitive enough grow to love their cars, they talk to them like their relative. Apart from that, Zen was a good car. I owned one. I loved it.

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    1. I was a little taken aback when a guy in a showroom said 'You will anyway be changing whatever car you buy in 3-5 years.' Hm. I would not even have discovered all the features that soon. :) 'Use and throw', indeed. But then some will rightly question - why such attachment to inanimate things?
      Zen is a good car. Good to know you are a fellow Zen-er.
      Thanks for reading!

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  5. Back then the only labels we worried about were the ones on our books and notebooks. Reminded me of my father's Fiat and Ambassador. Loved reading your post and the way it rested on many things!

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    1. Well said, Ilakshee. Among those book labels though we used to have "competitions" and "exchange policies". Remember? :D
      My father had a Fiat too. It took quite something for him to sell it off.
      Thank you for reading. I really like how you put it in the last line.

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  6. What a darling post, Sakshi :) Enjoyed it. Brought back memories of my dad's first car, a Maruti 800.

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    1. Hi Hema. So glad you enjoyed this and skipped down your own car-memory lane.
      Many thanks.

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  7. Very cute read.Yes the first car is very precious indeed,nostalgic memories I guess attached with it,it's almost as if the car new you !

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    1. That's a pretty one. That we know the car and the car knew us too!
      Thanks, Nima.

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  8. By God...short of making love to it, you have expressed every single emotion towards the car! I am sure the next four-wheeled (work)horse will yield much more Zen in your life that the old faithful, sad though it must be to see it go.

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  9. We had to give away our Maruthi 800 a couple of years ago and these were the exact emotions we went through. It is amusing how we attach so many emotions and feelings to things. :)

    Lovely post, this. :)

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    1. Absolutely amusing, but for now I do have a lump in my throat.
      Thank you!

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  10. Some things cannot be parted with so easily. You have so many memories associated with them. But as you said old has to make way for new. Universal law. I'm thankful to the Zen too for two short but sweet trips. Beautifully written Saks! :-)

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    1. Universal law, indeed!
      Oh yes, I am thankful to the Zen for making you all reach your station too. In a way, this post was born the moment I heard N telling you girls the story. :D
      Thanks, dear Reks!

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  11. In this day and age when people don't think twice about changing partners, i love your commitment and attachment towards tHe Zen. And having known you, albeit virtually, I am certain that the Zen feels 'at peace' knowing that it has served you well. Beautifully written as always, Sakshi. Here's to more memories with a new car.

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    1. Oh, I like how you put it. The partner-car thing.
      I think once we do find a substitute we will also feel at peace, knowing we don't need to force the 'ol' man' to take us places any more.
      Thank you, dear Sid!

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  12. My friend had a horrible-looking zen, long past its user-friendly date, its doors and dashboard coming apart. But she loved it, adored it almost. I didn't understand her then, but I think I do, a little, now. She has scrapped that Zen though. Your car reminded me of hers.

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    1. Thankfully, ours haden't turned an eye-sore. Having said that, I'd have loved it equally well if it had. :D It's gone now though.

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  13. This post reminds me of our Ambassador.. nostalgic. nice write up Sakshi.

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