These days there is a funereal atmosphere in my house. No, nobody has died, nor is on their deathbed. It is just that we are just days away from buying a new car.
But that should be an occasion for celebration, right? Wrong. Because buying a new car means selling our old car. Our trusted Maruti 800, that has seen us through many a tight situation, and grew to be a member of the family, virtually.
As chance would have it, this is happening at a time when Maruti itself has announced that it is finally pulling the plug on the 800, with which it debuted in India 30 years ago, and which has been its breadand-butter model till just a few years ago. That has added to the gloom in our house, because if this had not been the case, it is quite likely we would have bought another M800 to replace the old one.
The decision to buy a car was made virtually overnight, in October, 2002. The school in which our daughter was studying, decided that the school bus would no longer ply to our area, as road construction was going on at that time. Several people were inconvenienced, and no doubt many of them bought cars. We did, too. And if we had to buy a car, could it be anything but an M800?
For one thing, that was the only thing that fitted our budget. We could not even pay for an a/c model, and got one installed only a year after the purchase.
Nobody knew driving, so we had to hire a driver as well. Almost overnight, we had added something like Rs. 10,000 to the family budget, with the monthly installments, the driver’s salary and petrol expenses. But we were the proud owners of a car.
We had a MARUTI! What it added to our self-esteem was undoubtedly worth much more than the amount we were shelling out.
Over the next few months, I learned to drive it, so did my wife. The acid test came one day when I was running late for an appointment, and the driver played hookie. Left with no choice, I started out on my own, sweating profusely. But when I arrived at the destination, much to my surprise, I was confident. I suspect the Maruti had a big part to play in that.
For a rank new comer, M800 is perhaps the best car to start with. It is easy to drive because of its size. In metro cities where there is serious parking space crunch, Maruti 800 is one of the few cars which can be easily parked. Further, it is very smooth with a linear power delivery and gives exceptional fuel economy.
There are better, more desirable cars in the market now and to that end M800 is irrelevant.
One aspect where it still scores and always will, is its absolute lack of demand for maintenance. And even when something goes amiss, it does not burn your pocket.
I fondly recall the first time the car had to be garaged, when a self-inflicted injury caused the back bumper to fall off. The local service centre was obliging, and the thing was put back at a princely expense of Rs. 70.
Over the years more powerful affordable cars have entered the market. The one thing I still miss is the power steering. It is also not the best of cars on highways. When big vehicles whiz past, it does shudder and feels unsafe.
A first in everything in life is always special, and for me and a million others the M800 will always be a part of our lives.