Every single blockhead who tried anything fancy behind the wheels of an automobile in the 90s knows a thing or two about the Zen! While we were racing around corners and handbraking turns in the pocket rocket, someone had to go and spoil all the fun by giving us some inane information about the Zen. It apparently stood for “Zero Engine Noise”. What a bummer. While we had ported engines with a wail to wake the dead, some blithering idiot had actually killed it for us by giving the acronym for ‘Zen’.

So, we realised that we were actually doing the opposite of what Maruti set out to do. Zero Engine Noise my arse! We just continued on our merry spree and continued to vex the neighbourhood in our powered up engines, kicking up dust and leaving the delicious aroma of burnt rubber in our wake. 

As you might have figured, it was a rather fun car to drive. Given the limited options that we had to set the town ablaze, the Zen fit the description flawlessly. The car was just a joy to drive and handled like a bathtub on wheels. Well, that’s exactly what we needed as it got us all wet! No one complained about power steerings or the infotainment systems; that’s because it had neither. No diver assists as well. No ABS. No EBD. No nothing! Just a small little package wrapped in metal with seats to park your rears in. And it did just great. 

Then the engineers at Maruti had to go and mess it all up. We saw the next version called the “Zen Classic”. A hideous little car with details from Hell; and not in a good way. It was the pits of automotive design and made all of us wonder if Maruti did actually employ designers…. It was so horrendous that everyone who did not know a thing or two about cars also went about giving sermons on the design in a rather knowledgeable fashion. 

Ah! Bollocks to the Classic. We just continued on our merry spree and continued to vex the neighbourhood in our older Zen with powered up engines, kicking up dust and leaving the delicious aroma of burnt rubber in our wake. 

Then came the Carbon and the Steel. The limited edition clearance sale from the Polish market. And it had just three doors. Oh yes! Including the one that opened the boot. So you had just two doors in a car that seated five. This is where Calisthenics first originated. So we all just parked our Zens and waited to see the circus unfold everytime a family that did own the Carbon, planned a little drive. It was such a pretty sight, a typical Indian family in their traditional attire making their way to the backseat of the Carbon. Ah! The sordid travesty of that. 

Ah! That’s that about the 600 car clearance sale; I mean the Carbon! Which in fact was a nice car for a family of one. Meanwhile, we just continued on our merry spree and continued to vex the neighbourhood in our older Zen with powered up engines, kicking up dust and leaving the delicious aroma of burnt rubber in our wake. 

And when we all finally sprouted brains and got a tad earnest towards life, Maruti kindred our inner child by launching the “Zen Estilo”. By inner child I mean the three year old version of me. And I guess my three year old version could have designed a better car. And, just to be sure, the designers at Maruti created one more variant, the “Zen Estilo Sport ” so that they could ensure the comprehensive doom of the brand.. Now, when the Classic was launched, we believed that no one could do worse. Or so we believed. All hail the Estilo, and we had a winner. That too in pink. The car was just rubbish. Plain rubbish. The Sports variant was as sporty as a cow walking around a barn. And you quite certainly would wrap your Estilo around the barn fence if you pushed the car over 15kmph around a corner. Sporty as hell this one! So, said the sticker on the boot. And we sincerely asked that sticker to sod off!

From the beautiful Zen of the early 90s, the subsequent variants and some clever folks at Maruti had nosedived from the great heights to run aground the original Fast and Furious car of our generation. 

The last variant was indeed the final nail in the coffin for the revered Zen. The last was definitely Maruti’s worst! The Zen was dead. Served in our memories and by the far and few that we spot on the roads today. Long live the Zen!