Beagles and the curious case of micro SUVs

Beagles and the curious case of micro SUVs

Beagles are excellent companions. Their low maintenance cost and their affectionate, yet independent temperament make them an ideal pet for many families. Usually obliging dogs that rarely give in to aggression, Beagles are curious, smart, affectionate, and playful. Yet they make great hunting dogs and can sniff out rabbits by just looking at carrots.

An extremely capable, small dog that digs its paws in; be it in the comfort of their homes or roughing it out in the woods, finding game for some deerstalker clad, gun toting whackjob. I personally detest hunting. If someone really has to shoot, it’s best done behind a Canon, armed with a telephoto lens. But, it’s not really about hunting, is it? Beagles were born to use their noses! Not only does it make them happy, but it makes them healthier as they will be getting exercise and, in some cases, fresh air.

There’s always something romantic about small souls that punch above their weight. The tenacity and character makes for some interesting conversations.

Just the thought, perhaps, the engineers at Suzuki had while languishing over some green tea and daifuku. Save a few, there have been quite a few droll models that have rolled out of their factories. Needless to say, that needed correction. And fast. So the engineers called for some Sake, sat around a round table and vowed to do something about that. Tirelessly, they went to work behind shrouded workspaces and out came an interesting little car that represented the Beagle. Ah! The romance of small souls that punch above their weight.

It was the smallest crossover in the company’s lineup. The design was drawn from the legacy of earlier models and projected nostalgia, with the boxy outline and a tall-boy stance giving it a SUVish feel from a distance. Things changed when one walked closer though, it was just a small car that cast a big shadow. 

So when the car was launched we decided to sip on some Sake, have a bit of fun and drive the car around; not particularly in that order!!

The design philosophy had delivered and the car evoked emotions from the past. The nice straight lines and well proportioned curves gave the car a nice bold look. The eyes were not subjected to horrors, such as the KUV100 and the car stood tall, looking nice and handsome. Interestingly, the front looked quite tough and rugged while smooth lines made its way all around the car. The addition of roof rails and the rear spoiler were actually welcoming and blended well into the high SUVish stance of the car. The car looked smart and playful from almost all angles. 

We realised that the little car which looks deceptively small on the outside is actually quite spacious on the inside, both at the front and the rear. The legroom and headroom is significantly better than what many similarly priced hatchbacks offer. A family of 5 can comfortably journey around diabolical Indian roads and come back in one piece. There are two airbags in the front. Additionally, you will be well advised to travel light as the boot offers just 260 litres of space. That’s about 26 bottles of Sake or something similar. But the Beagle was never designed to carry her master on her back, was she?

The car packs a punch with gizmos and technology too. The top trim comes equipped with the company’s popular Smartplay infotainment unit along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and some mumbo-jumbo voice recognition technology. Also, the little crossover highlights premium upholstery and features like automatic climate control, central locking with remote, keyless entry and push-button start. 

The car has a peppy nose that can sniff out game at a distance. In other words, the heart pumps out of a 1.2 litre petrol engine that is very refined with minimal vibrations. The car was quite happy to charge towards some rabbits when throttled and did so in a fun sort of way. It doesn’t pin you back to the seat when you accelerate, but you’ll be happy driving this little thing, either in manual or automatic. The automatic does seem a little lazy though, stopping to sniff the flowers and other random smells before taking off after the rabbits. Add the SUV-like ground clearance of 180mm and it gets over most asymmetries quite capably, making the rabbit’s escape quite tough.

To top it all off, in true Maruti fashion, the engine is reliable and low on maintenance. Thanks to the low service costs, the car is really light on the pocket too.

For a Japanese car, the name is derived from a latin word that means ‘fire’. But what I will have to accept is that the car is quite fiery and definitely punches above its weight. It may also work quite well off road, like the old Jimny did, because it’s so light and can skip around enthusiastically. The smart little car digs in, to get you over undulations that are synonymous with our roads while you enjoy the SUVish experience without blocking oncoming traffic. All in all, a delightful recipe for putting smiles on your face between the miles.
Beagles are curious, smart, affectionate, and playful. And trust me, so is the Ignis.

Are big cats fast breeders?

India is home to the largest tiger habitat in the world. Today, we house 70% of the world’s tiger population and the growing tally is almost 3000. Project Tiger was launched in 1973 with just nine tiger reserves. Today, India has over 50 tiger reserves spread over 72,000 sq km. Generally, big cats are fast breeders if conditions are conducive.

Now, you must be wondering why this piece of information features in a car article. A very apt thought at first sight; but as we dig deeper we’ll find the success of a car tied together to this very foundation.

Interestingly, tiger census happens through AI. Fantastically enough, India’s latest Tiger Census activity was included in the Guinness World Records. For this they set up around 25,000 camera traps, capturing over 35 million phenomenal pictures.

While our tiger was happily breeding away in his controlled habitat, a Korean carmaker ran to the ground and declared bankruptcy. These situations inherently make for great bargains and another carmaker of Korean descent bought a considerable stake in the bankrupt company. Now, one company had a considerable share in the Indian car market. So, the natural progression ensured that the bankrupt company was introduced to the market where the benefactor enjoyed a great deal of success. 

The bankrupt company, of course, not bankrupt anymore, thanks to the influx of funds, set up a manufacturing plant in the state of Andhra Pradesh and began road testing their product on ‘actual’ Indian roads. This was fantastic as most international cars are not built for Indian road conditions and the adaptations made for them to function on our roads are mostly through simulators. First strike to the not-so-bankrupt carmaker. 

Controlled environment. Check

Next was the bold step to enter the SUV market. Well, that is big cat territory, isn’t it? So what would our not-so-bankrupt carmaker do? 

They decided to go after the biggest cat, and our national pride. They simply went ahead and fashioned their car’s front grill around the tiger. The stance was immediately majestic. The designers didn’t stop there and went about their task quietly and forged the rest of the car to mirror the magnificent beast. The final product was a bold statement coupled with best-in-segment frills and fancies. We now had a car that was great to look at, had 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC, HAC, VSM and a few more dangerous sounding words that most experts would describe in a passionate frenzy. Additionally, the engineers at the not-so-bankrupt company used advanced high strength steel (AHSS) fortifying the machine’s core and keeping the occupants safe in the event of a crash. The powertrain, or simply the ‘engine’ is powerful enough to get you through in comfort; and yeah, so are the interiors. Comfortable. The car also has both, automatic and manual transmission, conforming to the preferences of the Indian driving audience. 

Market ready product. Check

Kia motors’ first offering in India, the Seltos, was a great product launched in a controlled environment. Now was the time to set up camera traps and leverage on the benefactor’s widespread service network, second only to the legendary Maruti. 

Service network a.k.a camera traps. Check

The official launch. Find someone named ‘Tiger’ who is a celebrity and get him to endorse the car. What a fantastic little plot. And Kia did just that; with a brilliant execution strategy to boot. 

The boldly designed tiger nosed front grill, the brilliantly balanced, minimalistically clean exterior design, the first in segment 8-inch Heads Up Display, among other fancy gizmos, AVN system, ventilated and power seats, multifunction steering wheel, eco coating, smart pure air and ambient mood lighting makes the Seltos a feature packed little SUV. The ride and engine performance won’t blow you away. But it’s honest and does the job quite efficiently. But the best thing is that it does it while looking dapper. The pricing is great and will definitely appeal to most, given the all-round performance and a fantastic, well spread service network.

A humble beginning for the big cat, and the built-in-India knowledge is a massive plus in making the crowded Indian market conducive for expansion. Expect the big cat to breed fast. The Seltos might not make it to the Guinness book, but the car has definitely made its way into people’s hearts. 

The tiger may be an endangered species, but the Kia Seltos, with its swashbuckling tiger nosed grill, could soon put a few carmakers  into the endangered list.

The North remembers

‘We’ve been planning this for three years’ bellowed Jay from the other end of the phone. Hang on, let me add Rahul, I said. The phone rang on….no answer from Rahul. I’m sure he’s on a call in one of those meetings, I thought. Those meetings, ah! Yes! those meetings. ‘No answer buddy’, I said to Jay.

I knew that useless fellow will not pick the call stated Jay. True that! We had been trying to get that friend of ours to talk to us for a while now…without luck. Now this quaintly popular application has zoomed into our lives, controlling most of our conversations (mostly muted) in a rather autocratic way. 

I looked around to find that my walls hadn’t changed much, given that I stared at them for at least 6 hours a day. So, we had planned on getting away on a road trip with some spirits in tow. The road was ready and so were the spirits. But something had cast a dark shadow over our bright plan (also read spirit). 

Next morning. I hear honking outside my lair. Get in, said Jay. Let’s swing by and say ‘what the hell is wrong with you’ to Rahul. Good idea, I said jumping in. Traffic, all over the world,  I must say, has been slightly muted thanks to a very unique virus, which allowed us to make time getting to Rahul’s. Jay was on speaker in the car….zoom call of course. Which meant that I had to keep my trap shut (for most parts at least). 

Cut to the part where Rahul walks up to meet us.

The bugger has a cocky smile to boot (That’s where Jay and I wanted to gag him and dump him in our boot). I have news! So, Rahul was bogged down by the sinister and complex web that life had spun around (most of us have that happening, but this chap was inexplicably down on spirits for quite a while). 

Over a cutting chai, we discussed life in its purest Y chromosome form, needless to say sprinkled decadently with profanities. Rahul had been laid off. It was his last day at work. Wondering, why the cocky smile then? You should. As it happens, our man had invested in a few stocks that had skyrocketed when everything else had plummeted. The bugger had made a fortune. What seemed like a morbid investment a year ago, had helped him turn the tide in the most testing times of our lives. Good for him! 

We met up again after a couple of weeks at Sathyan’s, our hangout over decades. A little about this quaint little joint nestled right between two towering Gulmohar trees. Sathyan was someone that everyone loved. We ended up going there to chat up with the scamster, rather than satiating our bellies. The food just happened as we liked to keep our mouths busy when not spewing out profanities. Sathyan’s idlis are still significantly softer than paperweights and the chutney has a tad less water than the Harangi dam. The coffee is great too! He generally takes the ‘filter’ in filter coffee very seriously, but that’s our Sathyan for you. All in all, we still felt like teenagers, and that was good!

So, about Rahul, a month ago, this man was a wreck; disconnected from us with a constant scowl for company. The situation had flipped around and our buddy was alive again; full of life and enthusiasm. 

He had used a part of his fortune wisely and that was the reason for his new found cheerfulness. It had so happened that our man had gone and treated himself to something that he was dreaming for decades. Now this friend of ours loved the outdoors and for the longest time, lusted for the 4×4 life. Cargos and bad terrain in the middle of nowhere was his aphrodisiac. So the treat had to be in line with his lifelong ambition of taking off on aimless drives across untamed territories. But the critter also had a hidden love for creature comforts and gadgetries. So the machine that he possessed had to have the best of both worlds. Not to mention a comfortable drive when not negotiating the western ghats was also something on his checklist. So, from the pedigree of taming terrains to happily munching miles on the long winding roads of life, the machine had to bring joy and hope back into Rahul’s existence. The canny bugger had managed just that; that too in a fantastic green; talk about saving the planet!!! 

Gentlemen, we hit the road on Friday. I’ll pick you rascals up at five AM and see the first rays of sunshine on the highway; preferably, with nothing but trees, birds and our trusty Canon DSLR for company. The car needs to be where it belongs; away from masks and concrete. And hopefully, we’ll see the full extent of its capabilities on this trip. Let’s just ensure that we pack some coffee from Sathyan’s! 

A new chapter of life opened its pages for us on Friday….sharp at five AM! Life’s Compass doesn’t always point north. 

Go Anywhere. Do Anything. Jeep.

Honda and the art of fingering

One of the most written things about the Brio is that you can drive the car with just one finger. Just like most Hondas made after the VTEC era. The finger has been popularised by the owners of these new age Hondas as well as the motoring experts in their, well, distinguished reviews. The new age Hondas are great to drive in the city and are easy to park; said the experts. And you could do all this with one finger. What you did with the other nine while you were driving was, of course,  of no consequence. Neither were the feet, nor the handbrake, because it didn’t matter. It was all about the joy of driving in the ‘city’ and parking the Honda with ‘one finger’. Well, it depends which finger you use. The ecstasy, you know, could propornationely vary with each finger.

That said, if I really wanted to use my finger, I’d rather use it for more recreational purposes………Like typing. 

Well, the other thing about the Brio is that it’s a Honda. In India, it’s more like Sony. Everybody talks very highly of them. It’s like the go-to thing for the aspirational individual. Mind you, Hondas are very good. Very very good. But these new age, easy to park, sheet metal buckets which they pass off as cars in India, are quite shady at best. Anything sells in India; with a population of 1.3 billion, it’s not hard to find a few thousand buffoons. Not just with the Brio, hideous designs like the Maruti S-Presso and the KUV100 have also sold a few thousand units. In deeper introspection, the Brio actually scores when it’s compared to a few other models and that unfortunately, shatters my logic and rationale into a few million pieces.

The Honda City, Second Gen replaced a timeless classic. Honda actually sold great cars in India until that fateful moment when they launched the ‘Dolphin’. The roar of City’s VTEC and the classic lines of the Accord were replaced with a dreadful monstrosity that Honda actually called a car. Then came the line, ‘you can drive it with a finger’. The new ‘Dolphin’ did well and sold by the thousands. It actually sold so much that used car sites still have them listed by the hordes. It’s a Honda. And it’s like Sony for the Indian user. 

This has always intrigued me. All this one finger nonsense; until I drove one of them. You needn’t really drive the car to use the finger, cos’ you’ll be doing that to the Honda drivers anyway. Well, this brought me to another, rather astounding realisation. 40% of the chumps on the road drive Hondas. Like Sony. And if you pay attention, you will notice that the car irking you on the highway is most likely a ‘Dolphin’, or the Amaze, or the all new City or a Brio. I have a very close buddy of mine who used to drive a ‘Dolphin’ and he’s the worst driver among us by a country mile. So that annoying City in front of you could have been him. Or any other ‘Dolphin’ driver for that matter.

Now to the Brio. Honda stopped its production in 2019. We popped some champagne and celebrated. Now the cork has firmly lodged itself up our backside as Honda plans to re-launch the ‘New Brio’ soon. We look forward to a new set of buffoonery that will have more Sony loving Indians make a beeline towards the car that ‘loves you back’. All this tomfoolery aside, I firmly believe it will be better than the Honda City that killed the legacy of the glorious VTECs in India. With a snazzy dash, gizmos, smart  infotainment system and a host of buttons that can put an Armani suit to shame, the car, I’m quite certain, will entertain the Indian buyer’s imagination. In line with Honda’s quality of the interiors, it should be up a notch as compared to the competition. Verdict. It’s a Honda and the fanfare is inevitable. Like Sony.

So, while all the new age Honda driving ‘purists’ exercise their fingers to drive better, I better bugger off and handbrake a turn in an actual car, and hopefully, onto a road that leads far away from this circus. And if you look closely, I’ll be driving it with a finger……..sticking out through the window.

ANTAGONISED

We travelled to Goa. I would have loved to have the ABC of travel controlled by yours truly, but the gang had different ideas. Well, that’s the problem with ideas, everyone seems to have one; and thanks to the thankless democracy that we operate in, it’s generally put to vote. Sadly the multi-party system of voting ensured that I lost by a substantial margin. So we flew. I replaced my cape with a mask and quietly buckled in with a scowl that no one could see, thanks to the mask and the face shield. A freakishly large amount of people had masks on their chins, I thought to myself that I might have as well added a wiper to my face shield. Anyway, we made it to Goa.

About ABC, I love having command of the Accelerator, Brake and Clutch everytime we plan a holiday. For me, it makes the holiday more complete. Rubber on tarmac and any other composite that we call roads in India, is a definite mood lifter. We had to get ourselves a motorised machine to help get to the place of tranquility, so we rented a self-driven car. No no…not like the Tesla thing, but a more rudimentary form of transport. A people carrier was in order, given the six people who were being transported. An Innova it was, the perfect people carrier.

Now, I have been a massive advocate of controlling the revs and gear shifts, so we got a manual transmission (this devious little scheme exterminated four drivers as only two of us could handle a manual shift). The difficult part was to get Rahul away from hogging the wheel but I managed that, thanks to some more cloak-and-dagger techniques. On the road at last. A smile finally back. 

The smile faded quickly. The car was frightfully scary. Steering had to point North-West for the car to go somewhere remotely North. It took a while, and with some help with the Mariner’s Compass, I figured out the car’s dynamics. Oh! The joys of taming a badly behaved car…..the smile was back.

I have realised and discovered a lot of things, both physically and psychologically in Goa. From extreme parties to soulful introspection, a lot happens there. But this trip opened the bifrost to new realisation. The Arboreal bi-coloured Ant inflicts a fairly painful bite. I am not new to pain, being married for a while now. But this goddamn bite had me longing for a fight with my better half, lest that take away a bit of the pain. 

The critter bit me smack on the ball of my feet. My left foot was swollen with the pain making its way to parts I rather not discuss. Let’s just say it left me incapacitated in my left leg. After a while it hit me. Rahul had planted that ant right under my foot to dismiss my presence from behind the wheel…..that conniving little fellow!!! Or so I believed. Either way, I was in no position to drive with just one functional leg. Damn the misery.

Back to the ABC of driving. For the first time in my life, I was wondering the possibility of just rendering the AB of driving. The revs, the gear shifts, the red-lines were all shadowed by the pain of just not being able to drive. A tiny ant had made me realise the dexterity of automatic transmissions. This feeling lasted all of 24 hours until the sting relaxed. The pain quietly left me next morning like a great one night stand. I felt perfect in both my legs. 

Back to the ABC of driving. But this time with a little more respect for the AB of driving.

Mirages and the Toyota

The temperatures were bordering 50 degrees as I pensively waited outside the metro station. The anguish was made further unbearable by the grey suit that I had donned. Fortunately for me, I had decided to lose the tie in the morning as I could not find the blue one. A remarkable piece of good fortune. Never was I happier to not find something that I had looked for, especially when that meant being half dressed for a meeting. 

While I was lost in this sea of thoughts, a shiny scarlet red Ferrari 355 Spider pulled up right in front of me and offered to drive my dream machine. While I was gawking at the machine with my mouth open, someone bumped into me from behind. As I turned around, I was rendered speechless as it was none other than the God himself, Michael Schumacher. I had my dream come true on either side of my head. The Ferrari 355 on one and my lifelong hero, Michael Schumacher on the other. The day was getting insane. Just imagine two of your most coveted dreams coming true in a span of 60 seconds. 

That’s just about when I heard a loud honk. A smiling cab driver in a Toyota Camry was waving frantically at me. I was in the land of deserts and I guess mirages were not common in temperatures of 50 degree celsius. I jolted back to reality to find me on the road gawking at an elderly gentleman in cargo shorts. It took me a few moments to comprehend what had transpired. Profusely apologising to the elderly gentleman for staring blankly at him, I quickly hailed the cab who had brought my soaring dream crashing to the tarmac. I had two of my most coveted dreams broken in a span of 6 seconds. 

The AC was a welcome relief. Once I had cooled my head properly, the flashes of Red and the distinguished red racing God disappeared completely. I just stretched back smiling to myself and soaking in the possibility of that happening in reality…..someday, I thought. The smooth ride of the Camry on a silky smooth road was extremely calming. That’s when I noticed that the cabby was driving with a cheshire cat grin. Not wanting to ignore that, I casually asked him the reason for his cheery disposition. Well, you ask a question and you get an answer. But what followed was something that I was not expecting.

Ali, the cabby, was from Bangladesh. A lovely cheerful chap. He was intoxicated with the fact that he was on the last drive of the car which would be replaced with a brand new Camry at the end of the ride. SS last ride??? Not exactly. I was perplexed as the car was gliding along perfectly with the brilliant AC making it a very pleasant ride. That is when I craned my neck to check the odometer. Damn! The car had done 8,98,456 kilometers. A Dubai cab never rests. So it was constantly running two 12 hour shifts for god knows how long. And the lovely car was motoring along like it was almost new. That was my first tryst with the legendary reliability of Toyota engines. Almost a decade from then, I am still amazed at how little broken down Toyotas I have seen in my travels. 

Toyota makes really efficient and reliable machines. There’s no denying the fact that the designs can be quite mediocre at times, but the engine is never in question. Which brings me to a face-lift that I was quite eagerly waiting for, the Toyota Innova 2021. The Indian market has a place for almost anything, but to make a mark like the Innova, it had to be a special car. 

Now to the other element behind the roaring success of this great MPV. Even in the rapidly modernising India, the indispensable theme of the joint family is highly cherished, housing multiple generations under a single roof. This roof had to extend and also cover the great Indian family when on the road. The Innova redefined the art of moving large families in comfort when it was introduced in 2005. The launch of Innova, sparked off a trend that spread to quite a few other car makers over the years. The first MPV in India had found a niche; with unrivalled comfort, space and looks, combined with Toyota’s legendary Quality, Durability and Reliability, it was deeply rooted in the values of  Indian families. Over the years, the Innova has seen quite a few face-lifts, but no matter the design, the car has been lapped by adoring Indian families.

2016 saw the ‘Crysta’ badging make its debut, and again, the response was overwhelming. From being a rather basic people mover back in 2005 the car has come a long way, with features, gadgetries and styling getting progressively modern with each new model. 

The latest in the line, the Crysta 2021 has a horde of gizmos to keep the family entertained while on the road. The, so called, touch screen size that most ‘experts’ speak about is also addressed. The cabin of the new Innova Crysta has a new touchscreen infotainment system that comes with Smart Playcast with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The car also has a tad more power than its predecessor. And in true Innova fashion, all this happens quite comfortably in the rather spacious cabin. The pricing, I think,  is a little steep, but mate that to the cost of maintenance over the years and you have a winner.

The Innova is not a racer, so don’t expect the car to go round corners like a M5, or even a Polo for that matter. But what it does is the job the car was built to do. Move families around in comfort and with peace of mind that comes with the unquestionable reliability of Toyota engines. The car runs purely on the emotions of Indian buyers; space, comfort and reliability coupled with a low cost of maintenance.

The Innova still shines through as a beacon of light among the MPVs, all waiting to make their mark on Indian families. The temperatures in India might get hot. People might start seeing Ferrari 355 Spiders and Michael Schumacher around them. But, truth be told, the Innova is definitely no mirage. The reliability is real. The comfort is real. The emotions that it moves are real. The steep pricing is real; but the low cost of maintenance is also real. 

I raise a glass of finest scotch to a magnificent, ageless workhorse, the Toyota Innova. And this is real.

The last and the inglorious

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!

The family loves Tea

The truth be told, I like Coffee. But then the preferred choice of beverage in our madhouse is Tea. Now the tea is a very talented chap; comes in different colours, variants, strength and a horde of other specifications that I am obliged to read (and forget). Just like the manual on the smart TV that my wife made me purchase. It’s a Sony. Now, why Sony? 

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I’m still thinking……

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Well. It’s a Sony. 

Now, moving on. It was Saturday. I decided to spend my day judiciously doing nothing. While I was so busy doing nothing, something caught the corner of my eye. Interesting why it caught the corner of my eye; that’s because my Ninja trained reflexes were sharp enough to move my head 9.648 degrees. Just enough to avoid the newspaper that my wife flung at me. Nevertheless, my eyes were safe! For the moment!

That’s just about when my dog decided to chase the friendly neighbourhood spider scurrying away from the frightful gaze of my better half. Must have been the gaze, because the dog ran right past the spider and into the next room. Spider and Dog both safe! 

I cast a weak smile. Test drive anyone? I asked….

That’s when I realised that I had booked a test drive for our long awaited car upgrade. Our small car was Swiftly running out of space. I had gained 20 kilos since the last year…the family was 100 kilos heavier. Surprisingly, the three seater back seat could still comfortably seat two. Our family was expanding…2 inches a week! Damn! Time to cancel my Zomato Gold subscription. 

Missed call on my phone. From Uttarakhand….suspicious right? I figured that it might be the test drive vehicle’s over-friendly driver from Mysore. 

I quickly doubled up to put on my sneakers and sneaked past the sneaky gaze of my dog. There he was, with an ear to ear grin. Ramesh, from Mysore with an Uttarakhand number. This way sir, he prompted. 

I finally jumped into the big car with the family in tow. Ramesh was safely stowed away in the boot where he could offer me as little of the useless information. He still screamed ‘push-button start’ sir!!! I was so thankful for that gesture as I had meant to push the key into the USB drive to start the car. ‘Thank you’ I screamed back, asking him ‘which one is the accelerator”?

I couldn’t keep Ramesh quiet. So i quickly stuffed some cotton into my ear and asked him to rattle on…”Apple CarPlay Connected apps, Brake energy regeneration (Not available in W11(O) Automatic), six-way electronically adjustable driver seat, quilted leather, soft-touch leather on dashboard and door trims, glove box with laptop holder, side and curtain airbags…….electric sunroof with anti-pinch, telescopic steering, power-foldable ORVMs, 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog-lamps, reverse parking camera with dynamic assist, second-row reading lamps and mobile charging points”…….Fully loaded sir!

Loaded yes. So was my gun. Unfortunately, my licence had expired. 

I turned back to throw the key at Ramesh. But the key moment there was the smile on my daughter’s face, looking up through the sunroof. The relaxed look on my dad’s otherwise straight face (very few things in life get my dad to smile). And the best of all, a beaming, glowing, radiant and happy wife. The car had won hearts. 
I’m a coffee guy, but the family loves tea. And heck yes! This capable and talented chap also comes in different colours, variants, strength with a horde of other specifications. Say hello to our newest member in the family! The XUV500!