I Send My Sons To School By The School Bus

Updated: Jun 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
Listen to Archana Puran Singh recount this mad driving experience you never thought possible! My friend would work the brake, clutch and the accelerator while I steered the car, she laughs. Of course, the times she raced ahead of the fastest cars on the road are now past.

The actress has driven the best cars abroadthe Ferrari, Lamborghini and the Beetle. I have this friend who is a Dutch millionaire, so I use all his cars. She likes to drive now, too, though finding parking space is something best left to the chauffeur. I like to drive when I can. Otherwise, you have all these wonderful cars at your disposal, but the drivers seem to be enjoying them most, she says. I love to drive my two sons and their friends all the way to our new home in Madh Island. Its a 45-minute drive, but the roads are goodand my Honda City is just great. The power of a good machine affords a unique thrill.

Ms Singh may not have bought many cars herself, but she has inherited a love of them from her father. I am no collector, but my father was. He had all these wonderful imported cars in our home in Dehraduna Volkswagen, a Chevy, an Impala... Ms Singh says. I even forget the names. She does a quick check with her mother and reports, We also had a Vauxhall Vellox and a Morris Minor.

These would be eye-catchers even today, let alone the time when all that India knew was the Fiat and the Ambassador. Oh, we never had an Amby. My father somehow never bought Indian cars. He had two or three foreign vehicles at any given time, she remembers.

But by the time she bought her own car, things were looking up for the auto industry in India. The first car I bought with my own money was a Maruti Deluxe, after I acted in Jalwa. Until then I travelled in taxis, Ms Singh says. Next in line was a Premier Padmini, then a Maruti Esteem. All the cars she had so far were pristine white. I wondered if I was overdoing it. So the next change I made was for a maroon Esteem, she smiles.

Now the actress has this gold-coloured Honda City she was talking about, which she bought after confirming that it is a non-polluting vehicle, which conforms to Euro II norms. Also, we chose this because the engine is proportionate to the size of the vehicle, she informs us. The ratio between the two has to be just right, and the Honda City is good in this respect.

The golden car is a beauty, really, and what makes it special is the sun-roof that Ms Singh installed for around Rs 15,000. The kids love to pop their heads out through the roof of the car and feel the wind in their hair when we travel all the way to Madh, she says. Her smile suggests that she would enjoy the treat as much.

The actress has bought a sprawling bungalow by the seashore, which the family will move into within six months. Its beautiful! We have seven bedrooms and our own little garden, and a club, jacuzzi and gym inside the complex. The place looks like its outside Mumbai, but its actually out of this world, she says with a bright smile. When they move, Ms Singh and her husband, actor Parmeet Sethi, plan to buy an SUV. Or a Pajero or a Mercedes, whichever deal works out better. The extra space will come in handy for the kids belongings and the servants because this house is a considerable distance from school and work, she says.

The house is not the only thing that will keep her close to nature. Ms Singh is a staunch member of the green brigade. This extends to her motoring habits, too. I like to conserve the use of vehicles. Some cars are such gas guzzlers that they pollute the environment heavily. I am a firm believer in the cause of the environment and I do what I can to contribute. I even send my sons to school by the school bus. Thats four trips less per car, which makes a big difference, she smiles. Even when my husband or my friends suggest a drive, I do my best to deter them. Even if I succeed in convincing them half the time, I consider it an achievement.

Her concern for the environment overrides the pleasure of a long drive Oh, yes. The pleasure I get out of a long drive is no comparison to the pleasure I get when I succeed in deterring people from using their cars, she laughs. Then she clarifies, All this is not to say that I dont use my carsonly I use them prudently. For instance, I walk the distance to the market. There is no doubting her sincerity, after all, this is a bold step for an actress to take. Oh, people in Mumbai are used to seeing actors, so they dont bother you, she says generously.

Well, she has certainly given us a different perspective on motoring.

She says good-naturedly, Well, I know that people think I am a little eccentric sometimes. But thats okay. You know, all of us want to help, but we think one individuals efforts add up to nothing. I want to emphasise that they do. If 5,000 people decided individually to send their kids by bus, it would mean 10,000 less cars on the road every day.