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Music, machines, women draw crowds

Pulsating music, strobe lights, attractive salesgirls in short skirts and, of course, row upon row of polished automobiles and engines greet the eye at the venue of what is being touted as Asia's largest automobile exhibition. The event is officially aimed at facilitating tie-ups and technology transfers among Indian and global firms.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2004 14:53 IST

Pulsating music, strobe lights, attractive salesgirls in short skirts and, of course, row upon row of polished automobiles and engines greet the eye at the venue of India's biggest car show.

Touted as Asia's largest automobile exhibition, the six-day event that began on Thursday is officially aimed at facilitating tie-ups and technology transfers among Indian and global firms.

But, for the thousands of visitors walking through the sprawling expanses of the Pragati Maidan fairground, Auto Expo 2004 was also a time to window shop for their dream cars, bask in the sun, admire the women and listen to fast music.

School student Manav Gehlot had apparently come straight from class with a group of his male friends, all in their uniform.

He quipped: "When you put a guy's two main passions -- pretty women and automobiles -- in the same place, the attraction is a bit hard to resist."

And watching guys of all ages flit to and fro, some corporate honchos attired in business suits, others college students out for a lark and still others automobile freaks, armed with video cameras, one was inclined to believe Gehlot.

With the event attracting participation of 960 exhibitors from 26 countries, there was plenty of good-natured inter-stall rivalry on display.

At the display pavilion of Ashok Leyland, a grey-haired man was busy focussing his camera on an engine in a glass covering displayed on a raised stage.

When asked if he was an automobile aficionado, Sudhir Deshpande said he was also assistant general manager for Tata Motors and was sizing up the competition. He promptly went on to add that his firm's pavilion at the fair was the largest.

In a bid to attract eyeballs, different firms tried a variety of tactics.

While one of the Indian businesses kept calling all and sundry to sit in its luxury coaches for a while, Italian firm Piaggio had two emcees shouting out to people to take part in ridiculously easy on-the-spot competitions and win prizes.

For those interested only in the machines, there were display cards near each that gave a range of technical details such as the displacement, max torque and bore stroke.

Engines weighing nearly 1,000 kg were painstakingly polished and given pride of place. Some pavilions had one person for each engine or vehicle.

The fair was also an occasion for college students, especially girls, to earn a quick buck.

Juhi Bawa, one of the girls working at the Suzuki Motor pavilion, was getting paid a cool Rs 2,000 daily for the six-day show.

Said the Janaki Devi College student: "The business visitors are classy and polite, but after business hours it gets crazy when the crowds come in. All in all, this is a great way to spend time away from college and earn some easy money."

In a bid to ensure that Bawa and her friends, clad in smart blue, white and red skirt-shirt outfits, did not get harassed by the crowds, glowering security guards drew a rope ring around the vehicles and the women.

For those yearning for a taste of yonder days, the Heritage Motoring Club of India set up a display of vehicles made in the early days of the last century.

The Italy-made Lambretta scooter, very popular in India till the 1970s, old Harley Davidsons, sports sedans and Chevrolets were among the vehicles shown.

Also on display was a small, low-seated yellow and black bicycle, called the Villier Parachuters' Bike.

The vehicle, which could have passed off as a child's mode of transport, was used in World War II by paratroopers. Weighing only 70 kg, the bike could travel any surface and could be folded and carried as well.

After mingling with the machines, most people kept visiting the food stalls, to the delight of local entrepreneurs. Many had put up large banners outside their establishments declaring the array of delicacies and their prices.

Taking advantage of the winter sun, several people sat outside eating joints and downed cups of steaming beverages and a variety of piping hot snacks.

The more adventurous slumped on the many outdoor concrete steps Pragati Maidan boasts of and ate ice creams bought from the numerous vendors thronging the event.

First Published: Jan 16, 2004 14:51 IST