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Adjusting car

By Nickunj Malik - Apr 12,2017 - Last updated at Apr 12,2017

When it was reported a few years back that Prince Charles talked to plants, I must admit that I laughed the loudest. I found the whole idea both amusing and endearing but later dismissed it as yet another regal eccentricity that the blue blooded royalty occasionally indulged in. Besides, this was nothing compared to some of the bizarre hobbies the various Maharajas and Maharanis of my home country India, had. 

The Nawab of Junagarh was said to have owned 800 dogs, each with its individual human attendant. Also, the last Nizam of Hyderabad used the “Jacob Diamond”, which was the fifth largest diamond in the world, as a humble paperweight. And, King Jai Singh of Alwar had ordered a fleet of Rolls Royce, only to use them as cleaning cars, for transporting the city’s waste. 

If all of the above were irregularities, how could talking to a car be the most natural thing in the world? Well, that was so, because long before cars started speaking to us via the GPS, we were all talking to our cars. Think back to how often you sat in your car, switched it on and prompted a “hey, start up now” encouragement to the engine? Or, if you could not find the windshield wiper knob on the wheel, you asked the car where it was, expecting an immediate response? Or when there was a tiny parallel parking space available in a crowded street, you checked with the car, to somehow get it accommodated there?

In fact, most women also had names for their cars and not all of them were christened “Betsy”. It was said that naming a car, in a sense, gave it a personality.  It was a way for the owner to form some kind of bond with their vehicle and feel a greater sense of responsibility.  

The first car that my parents owned was a black Ambassador, which did not actually have a name but for the longest period my siblings and I referred to it as “Adjust”. That is because despite all the other conversations my father and mother had in the car, that particular word cropped up most frequently. Ours was a spacious automobile where ideally five people could sit comfortably but at any point in time, there were at least four passengers in the back seat alone, with an equal number of kids on their laps, and three folks squeezed in the front, and more willing to be seated. My parents never refused a ride to anyone and simply asked everyone to “adjust”. 

Oh, how I hated being little and could not wait to get old enough to be in the driver’s seat. That was the only place where nobody else sat though there were instances when its leg space had to be “adjusted”. No one wore seat belts and none of the traffic regulations were enforced but surprisingly there were hardly any road accidents then. With so many people inside the vehicle, the engine could not accelerate, I guess. 

I still remember that my mother had performed certain prayers to welcome the car, which also involved splitting of a coconut and burning some incense.

“Don’t wave the incense sticks so close to Adjust,” my brother had warned. 

“You mean the car? Why not?” I asked. 

“She might get burned,” he scolded. 

“What will happen then?” I questioned.

“I will have to pour coconut water on her,” he explained. 

 

“Good adjusting, I mean, thinking,” I applauded.

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