My Maruti Suzuki 800 and I

Updated: Feb 23 2014, 17:47pm hrs
Sachin marutiIt might not have been a flashy car but for some it was like a Ferrari, a fast car that would take them places, and continues to remind them of a simpler time.
It might not have been a flashy car but for some it was like a Ferrari, a fast car that would take them places, and continues to remind them of a simpler time.

It represents a time when you didnt covet the car next to you

Jehan Manekshaw, 35, theatreperson

I learnt to drive on the Maruti 800. I was barely 13 when my mum started to teach me. I feel like I am one with the car when I drive it. When you are used to driving a particular car for so long, you dont think when you are driving, it just feels natural.

My 800 was bought in 1996 by my parents and has crossed the 100,000 km mark twice over. When my mum gifted my dad a new car about six years ago, they decided to leave me the old Maruti 800. Instead of using a mover, we decided to make a road trip of it, from Delhi to Mumbai. We drove six hours a day, three hours each and made a bunch of stops on the way. The journey was beautiful and the car did not trouble us at all.

To me the 800 is like a household item, like the Prestige cooker or Rasna. There are always going to be so many memories attached to it. But I feel it represents an India before capitalism. A time when you didnt look outside your window and covet the vehicle next to you. A car then was about getting you from one place to another, not about which model or brand you bought.

As told to Kevin Lobo

To be a better driver was to become cooler

Sidharth Srinivasan, 38, filmmaker

Small is beautiful and my ridiculously-green Maruti 800 was just that! The Maruti Suzuki epitomised all that was cool, zippy and elegant in licence-permit-raj India at the time, even though the winds of change and liberalisation were blowing over the nation. And yet, for all its flimsiness, the Maruti trundled me and a bunch of unruly batchmates once a week from 1994 to 1997 from our respective homes to St Stephens College, Delhi, and back, in a car pool.

Getting the car for the day, week after week, year after year, was no mean feat as it involved arguments with the folks, who were concerned about the distance from south Delhi to north campus. It also involved my raging hormones, and smacked of elitism that was betrayed by travelling to college in a car, as opposed to taking the tried and trusted U-special. But those long drives to class were rites of passage. Gossip, politics and academics aside driving is an extension of the self and much was imbibed and exchanged while behind the small Maruti wheel. To be a better driver was to become a cooler (read: better) person.

Farewell, Maruti 800. You truly separated the boys from the juvenile men and I will remember you all the more fondly for it.

My car was like my tanpura

Meeta pandit, 39, classical vocalist

For a Hindustani classical musician, life without a tanpura is almost incomprehensible. But lugging around the long-necked instrument is always a task. Heres where my navy blue Maruti 800 came handy.

We buy vehicles in life for ease, for mobility, for luxury, but my Maruti 800, bought by my older brother in 1994, was a way for me to travel for my concerts with the tanpura. It was difficult to tow it around in public transport. I still remember how in the nondeluxe model, the one I also learned how to drive on, I would lower the backrest of the passenger seat and have my instrument sit right next to me, while I drove, humming the notes to some of my favourite ragas. Yes, I felt independent and liberated. I was the girl who came to college in her car and I made a lot of girls at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, quite jealous.

Buying a car meant a lot in the early 90s. In fact, a car at that time meant only Maruti, but a woman driving meant more. Men would leer and look on at this liberated woman, going about her business on her own, without any help from any male. It was just so unshackling.

The floor gears were so easy to manage, unlike the hand gears of the Fiat, where it was a Herculean effort to move to the third. But the amnesic in me also gave me bad days. I would get locked out of my car really often. But even here, Maruti 800 was so fantastic. It would open so easily with those long steel rulers. So I have had many people open the car door for me without a key.

I have owned various other four wheelers since then, but when I talk of my car, its that gorgeous blue thing I always think of. Like my tanpura, my little car was a backnote, always there to support me.

As told to Suanshu Khurana

It was the most beautiful thing I had seen

Ravi Bajaj, 49, fashion designer

Back in the 1980s, my uncle booked a Maruti 800 and he had to pick it up from a dealership in Connaught Place, Delhi. But since he didnt know how to drive, my brother and I drove him in our Fiat. Oh god, that red Maruti was the most beautiful thing I had seen! You couldnt even tell if the engine was on or off, it was so smooth. It was like a Ferrari for us. Once we reached the dealership, my brother and I fought about who would drive it back home. Since he is older, he drove the Maruti and I drove the Fiat.

My uncle didnt learn how to drive, so my brother and I would eagerly wait for him to go somewhere so we could get behind the wheel. I bought my own Maruti 800 in 1987. It was a white one.

As told to Somya Lakhani

It was like a Mini Cooper on the road and I felt proud

Sunil Sethi, 59, President, Fashion Design Council Of India

I bought my Maruti 800 in 1983, the year it was launched in India. At that time, it was available in only two colours white and red and I bought a white one. It was a really big deal for me because I was quite young and had moved from a bike to an 800.

I had just started my metal business and would travel to Moradabad, Ambala and other such small towns for work. I would drive my brand new car and people would stop and stare. Back then, it was like a Mini Cooper on the road and I felt very proud.

Whenever I would go and meet my clients, I would keep a few bottles of Campa Cola and Thums Up in the boot, and drop them to five-star hotels like The Oberoi in my Maruti. There was a certain status symbol attached to it. I am now looking to buy an old Maruti now, for keepsake.

As told to Somya Lakhani