I bought my first car recently. It's an LSD-hallucination shade of green and looks a bit like those pod-thingies at Heathrow airport that take you from one terminal to another. Aside from the natural euphoria it's induced in me by virtue of being my first car, I have uncovered a rather pleasant side-effect to purchasing the highly affordable 2012 version of the Tata Nano*.
|*Beach Not Included|
First, unlike its predecessor, it promises not to spontaneously combust (and since I cross my fingers every time I get into it and say three 'Hail Mary's, I assume I'm in the clear). Secondly, everywhere I take it, it tends to make people smile - people who would otherwise scowl at me, like the security guard outside my cousin's home, who recommended I feed it chocolate because it was such a cute little thing.
At shopping malls, guards grin at me gamely and let me pass without too much trouble - they know the car has neither space in the trunk (where the engine goes) nor glove compartments, nor space in the front boot space that's just large enough for the spare tyre. They wave me on with a smile that says: "How can something so cute pack a ton of RDX?"
|Because A Nano Driver Could Never Be A Terrorist|
This evening, my cousin, his wife, the Nano and I giggled into the driveway of The Leela. The valets beamed at us. Then on our way out, the doorman got into a conversation about the car's specs. A towering Sikh gentleman with an apparently equally statuesque wife, he was especially interested in the head & leg room the car offered us. And then: "Kya mileage?" "Kitney me liya?" "Finance kiya ki full payment?" Ordinarily I would shut such personal questions down in a second, but not this time. The Nano had made the world go rainbow bright with socialist bonhomie. All was candy floss, puppies and proletariat. Short of giving him my bank account details, I answered all his questions and we parted with a warmth uncharacteristic of interactions between strangers in New Delhi.
Of all the benefits I thought I'd get from purchasing a dirt cheap, petrol-burning automobile, earning goodwill from the legendary grumps of Delhi was not something I'd anticipated. I wondered: Which other sourpusses could the Nano join together in harmony? How about we drive Nanos into Taliban strongholds? Or swerve one past Mamata Banerjee's office? Maybe park it under Raj Thakeray's building? Or use it to cheer up Nicholas Sarkozy. Take a ride through Syria, Darfur, Abhishek Manu Singhvi's bedroom...the possibilities seem endless.
There is a flip side too, though. As with most things, the Nano holds equal potential for being used for evil. So if you ever see it driving around with a 'Being Human' sticker across its back, alert the authorities immediately and run for cover.