My Corolla, My Uhuru
How do I begin addressing a faithful and devoted friend? If I call it by a feminine name, say Mary similar to what most fellow buddies name their inanimate companions like bikes or yachts, my friend for little over a decade may stop growling like a tiger cub or roaring like a hungry lion. and start throwing tantrums that I so dread. If I name it Henry, it may stop being devoted, faithful, stylish and beautiful. So I have decided to declare truce with equal opportunities and call it "Uhuru," a Swahili word meaning freedom, at least temporarily until this tribute to my devoted and faithful friend is over and recorded in the annals of online eulogies forever.
Well, Uhuru, our Toyota Corolla, is our family car. It dwells in our parking lot in relative obscurity with surrounding Next Gen mean machines like BMWs, Landrovers and Jaguars. It lives the life of a harmless rabbit at the center of a family of T-Rex dinosaurs. It seems to perk up as soon as it sees any one of us in the parking lot, and tries to say "Ok buddy, let's hit the road." That's when we realize that our buddy has been waiting for us at the same spot where we left it last time, waiting expectantly for its doors to be opened, a feminine presence to grace its front seat and a masculine hand to hold the very essence of its meaning in life or the reverse when my wife drives. It shakes up a bit as we seat ourselves, awakening itself from the drudgery of waiting, waiting, and then some more waiting.
Uhuru Comes To Us
Well, prior to our Uhuru, we had a Fiat, a Suzuki, an SUV, and a Ford in progressive ownership over the years, in that order. There was a time when the Suzuki and the SUV were together in the family fighting for attention and space, but then we got fed up with their continuous bickering like a pair of sour spouses a decade or so into marriage and decided to dump both. We got the Ford, which initially started behaving well, but then a few months later lost its dignity and started galloping like a horse on the streets of our city. By that time the dealership had wound up after selling quite a few of these outward beauties, and we had to wait little over a month for a maintenance camp by the manufacturer that was later promoted to a sales fair as well, perhaps to determine if their design had regressed from a state-of-art automobile to the beginning of the earlier century horse jalopy. During all this time, the car galloped through the streets, quite literally, with the front tires going a distance, then a pause followed by a jump, and then the back tires covering the distance of the jump with the entire process being repeated throughout the journey. We were quite a sight those days, and people watching us would have that bewildered look trying to guess whether our car was the latest hip statement, a new design at propelling, a fond remembrance and tribute to the movie "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," or simple stupidity at driving such a moronic vehicle, in which order still unknown to us. However, I guess most of them thought we were a stupid family with their loud guffaws chasing us down the streets. It was later discovered that a microchip housed within the panel of the car had gone erratic and made the car gallop like a horse based on its short circuited commands. Well, that was over and done with and we were relieved for some time until the car developed a loose belly a few months later. I still do not know why, but within a year of purchase, the silencer pipe and the base frame started rusting and rotting away. That's when we decided to get rid of it, did some cosmetic surgery, and sacked it off. I never tracked that car after that, and thus do not know whether it still gallops through the streets in whichever city it lives currently or if it still runs a loose belly occasionally.
Well, we thought we have had enough of our craze with Western products and once again started looking Eastwards, specifically Japan, since our earlier experience with Suzuki was quite pleasant, though we were compelled to let it go since the car was getting smaller with the increasing family size, both in girth and added family members. This time we zeroed in on either a Honda or a Toyota, but now a sedan to accommodate us all, girth and number. We didn't want a SUV because there were more women in the household than solo me, who were coy, demure and pretty and would have surely looked odd confined in a black SUV screaming down the road with me driving in all my purported masculinity and being chased by the traffic cops for over-speeding.
We called over both cars to our place for trial runs, the Honda first and the Toyota later. As is the diktat that still runs in our family, all minor decisions are taken by my wife while I am concerned with the major ones. The minor decisions include selecting cars, planning holidays, running the house, buying clothes, saving money, i.e., every decision in the homestead. I am the major decision maker, and am mostly concerned with national and international affairs, including opining on who would be the next prime minister of our country, whether Obama and Putin would be friends again etc. Mostly, my opinions do not find favor with my democratic household and I am left appreciating these decisions and opinions myself.
Well, my wife drove both cars. She thought the Honda was more like a tin box, cramped, didn't growl and was jumpy at the slightest provocation. She felt the Toyota held on to the road firmly, roared when pressed, and with the windows rolled up was a soundless and smooth drive. So that was how our Uhuru became an added family member, that has withstood more than a decade devoid of tantrums.
Dependability Of Toyotas
Dependable? Reliable? Faithful? Devoted? Best buddy? I really don't know how to describe my Toyota appropriately. Suffice it to say, you call a buddy a buddy because you can rely on him, her or in this case it. In all this time that Uhuru has been with us, we had to change the battery only twice and replace tires once. It goes to prove that its dynamo is powerful enough to recharge the battery continuously while in motion. It also goes on to prove that the car is so finely balanced that the tire treads wear equally irrespective of the rough rides on Indian roads. We send it for routine maintenance once a year though, similar to when we go for our annual health check ups to a hospital where the entire body and the system is given a run through to determine if any valves are leaking, the pump is pumping adequate fluid to keep us running and the like. The only time we had to spend a bit on Uhuru was when old age made its window packings to rot and the glass roll up motors to stop functioning. But then that wasn't its fault. I am sure if we were left out in the open to drench ourselves during monsoons, bake ourselves in intense summers, and freeze ourselves during winters, we wouldn't have lasted even one season change.
Uhuru still purrs, growls and roars the way we want it to, sprints like a Cheetah albeit with some creaking sounds here and there, has seen my head transition from a densely covered scalp to a few strands of hair still remaining as fond remembrance of the glorious times gone by, has taken my wife to her clinic whenever her more youthful buddy has given up, and ferried our daughter through school, movies, parks and college. Now, when we go and receive our daughter at the airport during her annual visits home, she hugs her mom, then me and then the Toyota in that order with equal affection. Believe me, Uhuru smiles those days and drives better and happier.