I Chant A Shloka Before Getting Into The Car

Updated: Oct 20 2002, 05:30am hrs
Cousin of Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur and a graduate of the Parsons School of Design, New York, designer Raghavendra Rathore is a combo package of blue blood and fashion. And hes as much at home in the world of fashion, having worked for labels such as Donna Karan, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta, as he is in the world of wheels, to which he has been exposed since he was a toddler.

In fact, it took me some time to come to terms with the fact that you had to reach a certain age to get a driving licence, he says with a smile. As if that does not tell you how early he got behind a wheel, he recollects, I used to sit on my fathers lap while he was driving. We used to go all the way by road from Rajasthan to Himachal Pradesh in my fathers Ambassador during the summer.

So what was it about the four-wheel vehicle that fascinated him Initially, it was the horn and I used to honk it quite a lot, he grins. Mr Rathore reveals that he got the hang of the steering wheel by the time he was four years old!

The first car that he drove was a Morris Austin. I was still a child then and had an assistant to guide me on this particular expedition, he remembers. The car was a beauty. The dashboards were handcrafted and I was fascinated with the texture of the seats. I went round and round in the car.

The 1971 war between India and Pakistan saw Mr Rathores school in Jodhpur blown off. Around the same time, he moved to Mayo College in Ajmer. At Mayo, we had to take up some extracurricular activity and I joined the auto workshop classes, he says. In fact, I owe a lot to Mr David, my teacher in the auto workshop class. He explained to me the functions of each and every part of the car. Mr Rathore still holds a note of reverence in his voice.

When he was about 15 years old, he chanced upon a 1947 MG car that was lying unused in a makeshift garage in Jodhpur. The funny thing about the car was that people were using it as a signpost of sorts for directions and all. But he had different ideas for it. I used to lift the bonnet and fiddle with the parts. I used to makes notes as well. I have preserved those notes till date, he says seriously. The experience taught him a few valuable lessons as well. I realised that a car is a logical instrument. Every part of the car has a functional aspect to it.

If the mechanics of cars fascinated him, then the dynamics gave him their share of nightmares. Till date, he cannot forget an experience he had while a student in the US. I was driving a Honda on a cold, wintry night in Hampshire. Suddenly, the car spun out of control and left me high and dry in the woods, he remembers. But how did the car come to spin I forgot to change the tyres. I was on the summer tyres instead of the winter ones, he says. There was not a single soul on the road as I walked back home the whole night. More than anything else, it was the fear of the unknown and the howling of the wolves in the woods, he recounts with a shudder.

That fear lingers on. My biggest fear while driving is that the tyres will burst. Even if you are clocking 60 kmph, if a tyre bursts, then it can be very tragic, he says.

Mr Rathore like sport utility vehicles (SUVs). SUVs denote a rugged background and in places like Jodhpur, an SUV is ideal. Also, whenever I drive, I prefer to be on an elevated height, he says. Mr Rathore owns a silver Tata Safari. And he believes in maintaining a logical speed while driving. There is a point till which you can control the car. Whenever you get into a car, you always have to remember that a car is a means of transport first, he warns. He says he always maintains a cars distance from other vehicles while driving.

Doesnt he find the Safari too bland for his designer image Yes I am in the business of image and I actually tell people what they should wear. But then, I have to keep certain factors in mind. I come from Rajasthan and, therefore, I need a car that can be serviced even in a remote part of the country. Plus, the terrain in Rajasthan is pretty rugged, so the Safari is an ideal choice.

And thats not all. Mr Rathore also undertakes a few precautions before driving. I always chant a Sanskrit shloka before getting into the car and also offer dastoor (an offering to the Gods) whenever I go out on a long journey. This is a very important custom in Jodhpur, he says. This is an important routine considering the fact that he shuffles between Delhi and Jodhpur three to five times a month. And the journey is an arduous one12 hours each way. I take the flight only when I have deadlines to meet. Otherwise, I prefer driving to flying, he says.

While driving, he loves to listen to music. You have to be careful about the kind of music you listen to while driving. Music is essential in a car. But when you are driving, especially on the highway, you need to listen to music that will keep you alert, he says. I usually listen to off beat and abstract numbers.

As for his dream car, he says, I would like to own a Hummer. Its a boys club car.