Zen and I

Contrary to what you may imagine on reading the title – this is not a post about my philosophical leanings. It is actually a nostalgic one. This post is about my car from back home – my golden Zen.

When we bought the car, it was one of the flagship vehicles of the Maruti-Suzuki fleet – this was way back in 2000. I remember going around town visiting car dealerships in order to zero-in on one of these compact cars. It was probably one of the few cars we actually bought with our own money – most of the others were company-given. Since this was to be OUR car, we spent quite some time looking around. I remember test driving the Indica (a new vehicle then), the Matiz (from Daewoo – now a GM car) and the Zen. We really liked the Matiz, but since there were rumors of the company closing down, and part – availability becoming a problem, we opted for the safer alternative (and the more expensive one as well)  – the Zen. Our golden Zen was close to 4 lacs at that time (on the road) and it was a huge sum of money in those days. My dad drove the car happily for around 4 years, till we bought our Honda in Pune in 2003-2004.

When we bought the Honda, we did not sell off the Zen. It was a beautiful little car – great mileage, low maintenance and lucky too! As soon as we got the Honda, I was sure I would get the Zen for myself. I was not 18 then and my parents were hesitant to let me have the car; so I shuttled along on a small automatic 2-wheeler (legal age to drive = 16). As soon as I hit 18 I started to drive it around (only small distances, had to get my license); and once I got my license, I started to take it to my college more often. As soon as we shifted to Uttara Krittia, I was done with my bike. I had migrated to my golden Zen.

I loved my Zen. Some of my best moments in Pune were spent in the Zen. I used to love driving it to college – passing through Chaturshringi, Law College and then hitting Paud Road. Parking the car in a rough, pebble-filled parking lot at an angle. Driving back again through the same route in the evening. Ah, those were the days! My best memories of the car and Pune are driving down streets, listening to music. My drives to the college were my source for music. Initially I did not have a great stereo system and could only get the radio (or use a cassette!) and I listened to quite a bit of Radio Mirchi at that time (the only radio station then). I managed to convince my father to get a new system for the car which read MP3 CDs. The compromise was that I would not ask for new speakers – just the music system itself. Since I had speakers only in the front and since I had been told that the speakers were pretty low wattage for the system and I should not increase the volume beyond a certain limit, lest I blow up the speakers – I had a self-imposed limit of 30 on the volume level. After 3 years of driving my car, I still had that limit! I never replaced the speakers.

I recollect having one of the speakers stop producing sound – I think it was the right one, when one sat at the wheel. I spent some days hoping it would turn back on automatically (and I was studying to be an engineer!). One weekend, I pulled out a screw-driver, opened up the enclosure and checked the wiring. Sure enough, one of the wires was loose. I plugged it in, and voila! stereo music again!!

It was my golden Zen that introduced me to one of my all-time favourite songs – ‘En Kaadale’ from Duet. I had this collection of Rahman’s songs, but used to always play the songs that I knew (mostly Hindi). But when I plugged the CD into the car, I would allow it to cycle through all of the songs on the disc. One evening, I think I was returning from the library, and it was raining outside when this song started up – giving me goosebumps. I remember playing it over and over again till I reached home – pure bliss.

My golden Zen was also the car of choice for Silky – my dog. He used to sit at the backseat, and I would obligingly pull the window down, as he would stick his head out, the wind ruffling his long ears. He sat at the backseat, watching us devour ice-creams and he would bark demanding one for him! The Zen was the only car he was allowed to sit in without any towels being used to protect the seats.

I have learnt a lot in the Zen. It was a place for many a firsts – best not to describe them publicly! 😉 The golden Zen was my car, it was my place of solitude, it was my little space in the wonderful world, a space where I could get lost. I would put on music and drive, and there is nothing in life that I have enjoyed more than that.

My golden Zen is not with me anymore. It is with a cousin of mine – we haven’t had the heart to sell it. I miss my golden Zen. I miss the winding window and the 30-max-level stereo. I miss the skipping audio CDs and I miss having silky in the backseat with me as I drove around Pune. A foreign land with better roads, a better car and beater speakers (no sound limit) – all of this is not as pleasurable as driving through law college in my little golden Zen. Thank you for  the wonderful time my golden Zen! I shall never forget you, my first car.