Friday, August 31, 2007

The Fia(t)sco

If you've read this post by David, then you know it has a happy ending. If you haven't, then what are you waiting for? At David's request I'm posting about a similar story except our ending had a dunking.. literally.


My grandparents moved from Lucknow to Gurgaon in '89. Until then they were the proud owners of a scooter (brand escapes my memory). I have happy memories of four overweight individuals balanced on it, whizzing through the lanes of Lucknow interspersed with frequent breakdowns!

Having moved to an as yet undeveloped suburb of Delhi meant that getting a car became a necessity. I really can't remember whether we could afford a new car or not but the decision was made to get a second hand one. Especially since my grandparents couldn't drive and the car would be under the supervision of some aggressive Jat (a community known for their brash style).


Having racked their brains hard, the task of finding a suitable car was given to my maternal uncles...all the way in Srinagar (they subsequently moved to Jammu as the terrorism threat increased). Even though my uncles "couldn't possibly do anything right", or "have any knowledge of cars", they were the chosen ones. And to their credit they took up the challenge (not that they had much choice), fully aware that everytime something went wrong they would hear about it.. promptly and loudly! It was only when they moved to Gurgaon a couple of years later that they would rue this decision as the complaints became as common as their daily cuppa.


The light green coloured Fiat arrived at our doorstep one summer day after having driven more than a thousand kilometres all the way from Jammu (waaaaay up north). Covered with dust after its long drive, it was still a pleasure to eyes that had never owned a four wheeled thingy before. It remained the pride of my grandfather till umm...the dunking. He was after all the first in his family to get one and wrote about it lovingly in all his letters to his relatives.

It was common for my grandparents to bundle the three of us into the Fiat and drive to Rishikesh where our family guru stayed in an ashram. Instead of an aggressive Jat we had an alcoholic Haryanavi (native of Haryana, an Indian state) as our driver. On a little aside, I can't believe for 10 years we had a driver who had a known alcohol problem. Every time we had to go somewhere we could never be sure that we would reach there - one because he might not turn up and two because he might turn up drunk. We would always accept invites but caveat it with a 'depends on the driver'. If he turned up intoxicated my grandfather would feed him loads of nimbu achar (lime pickle) and strong black coffee and then evaluate whether he was in a condition to drive. The other positive of having an alcoholic driver was that once when he did turn up extremely drunk during some festivities, he sat there for hours washing every dirty dish we could provide him with. And even then he would come stumbling up asking for more work. He worked like a donkey that day, poor guy. And before some of you get agitated, for the record we did not let him drive the car when he was drunk.

That was a lot of digressing. So, we were on our way to Rishikesh one summer - 2 seventy year olds, a teenager and an alcoholic - fantastic. We reached the Ashram without mishap (God was benevolent until later). Now, the Ashram is located in the foothills of the Himalayas, on the bank of the Ganges in Rishikesh. It's up a steep hill and the gate of the ashram overlooks the Ganga. So, he drove the car up the hill and in through the ashram gates. We got out of the car and he parked the car on a slope in front of the gate (that was really the only place to park cars inside the ashram). A few minutes later we heard a slight roll and turned around to see the car roll down the slope, gather speed, break through the iron gates, cross the lane and crash into the roaring Ganga below.

I think I felt shock but the predominant feeling was of amazement. I had witnessed a scene only before seen on celluloid. Wow! I still can't believe it happened. Clearly the handbrake had not been engaged and I have to add here that on that particular day the alcoholic had not imbibed any alochol, not because he could resist but because he hadn't had a chance in the 7 hour drive from Gurgaon under the eagle eye of my grandfather.

We had named the car Ram Pyaari after Amitabh's car in the movie Akela. She was replaced by a brand new white Fiat a couple of weeks later. Those were the days.....................

13 comments:

Malavika said...

Hey.. I remember hitching a ride till Moolchand several times in your Fiat, back in the good old Manchanda days.. so I guess it was the new one??
Mala

Moppet's Mom said...

LOL, that's quite a story! Hilarious - since nobody but poor Ram Pyaari was hurt.

indicaspecies said...

Isn't the phrase "'Ram Pyaari' (or Pyaara) ho gayi (or gaya)" used while one is deceased? If so, then it was an apt name for the Fiat, that took a permanent dip in the Holy Ganges.
How did your grandfather take it? Was the car insured?
Interesting story, good narration. :)

Squiggles Mom said...

Mala - Yes, it was the new one. Are you in touch with Manchu? Last I saw him was at my wedding. Hows Dhruv? Can we have some pics please?

Indicaspecies - Welcome! I think we were all amazed that it had actually happened... it was really weird. When someone tells you that it's hard to believe at first. I'm pretty sure it was insured and if memory isn't failing me then we got 15k out of it. Not bad for scrap huh?

david mcmahon said...

What a wonderful narration. Did the car float in the river for a few seconds until the air in the passenger cabin was expelled by the force of the water, or did it sink immediately?

I always thought the handbrake (park brake we call 'em here in Oz) on the Fiat 1100 was not strong enough to hold the car on a slope.

As you know from my true-life experience `Sigmund Fried' the same thing happened in my case - also on a slope.

Good luck with everything. Enjoy your time wit Squiggles - this is a wonderful phase in both your lives.

Do keep in touch

David

david mcmahon said...

Looking forward to your next update ....

Squiggles Mom said...

David - I can't honestly answer your question but by the time I ran out I could see the top of the car and not much else. Sorry.

the matrix buggy said...

you have alot of words I don't understand. That's good for me so now I'll go look them all up.

p@tr!(k said...

nice story! whatever happened to the drunken driver though? did he drown himself in the drink, so to speak? or did your granddad drown him in the Ganga? :D

cheers! (and no pun intended here!)

Squiggles Mom said...

p@tr(k - Welcome! He got a blistering from my grandad for sure :). He was always watched by my grandpa to make sure he didn;t get drunk while away from home as it could mean a delay in returning back home. Sometimes he would disappear for days without any news. I may have to check this with my bro but I'm pretty sure he left us stranded once out of town because he got drunk.

Sue said...

Good grief, woman! The shock would have killed me, had it been my own Ally (my Alto).

Squiggles Mom said...

Sue - We're a sturdy lot, we are :)

choxbox said...

this is totally hilarious! though i guess it may not have been when it happened.