Monday, February 16, 2004

from No Full Stops in India, by Mark Tully (1991):

"Swami's vehicle was a Hindustan Ambassador -- still the standard issue for everyone in the government of India who merits a car, from the prime minister downwards. It is a bull-nosed four-door saloon making no concessions to modern aerodynamics -- the late-forties model of the British Morris Oxford. It came to India in the fifties and has dominated the roads ever since. Officially the Ambassador has been through several changes during its long life, but each new 'mark' has meant merely a face-lift for the front grille or a new dashboard. The engine behind the grille has reamined the same, and the chassis and springs carrying it have not altered. The car has two outstanding qualities: there seems to be no limit to the number of people it can carry, or to the length of its life. Mind you, the Ambassador is a demanding car -- it needs plenty of attention to keep it on the road, which is why every Ambassador driver has to be his own mechanic. But despite its stern principles of economic self-reliance, or pulling itself up by its own bootstraps, even India has not been able to withstand the Japanese invasion. The Maruti is now the fashionable car in the bigger cities. Named after the son of the Hindu wind-god, it is in fact a small Suzuki. Hindustan Motors, the manufacturer of the Ambassador, has relpied by putting an Isuzu engine into the body of an outdated Vauxhall and calling it a 'Contessa.' But Hindustan motors has not stopped producing the Ambassador, as it is still in demand. Although the Contessa is more comfortable and has an engine which can power an air-conditioner as well as a car, I still feel safer setting out on a long journey in an Ambassador. Contessas -- and indeed Marutis -- require new skills and spare parts when they fall victim to India's treacherous roads, and those skills and parts have not yet spread into the countryside."

My links *never* work but we'll at least try to do....

No comments:

Post a Comment