Article Published in THE TIMES OF INDIA

Getting Her Done Up

Navtej Sarna

IT is great to drive a car when it is running. Almost anybody can do it, though some do it at tremendous cost to the nerves of those driving behind them. These are the people who look in to the rear-view mirror except when they reverse the car. And put their hand out of the window merely to check whether it is raining.

Barring the prospect of running into these, one is on four wheels once the license is snug in one’s pocket.

Trouble starts the day the car does not. When, instead, is wheezes and groans. Desperation mounts and I fiddle around with the available knobs and switches. Passing cyclists wonder what I am doing with the headlights shining and the wipers wiping in bright sunlight. I curse the ones who smile tolerantly.

To keep up appearances in the colony where I live, I raise the bonnet and peep under it. My incompetence stares mockingly back at me from the carburetor, the distributor and the radiator, assuming that I recognise them for what they are. I somehow charm two able-bodied youngsters into pushing the car.

Now begins a great operation. The first step is to locate a mechanic and approach him with a recommendation. The chap will swindle me anyway but at least the do-gooder who recommends him will think me a swell person for respecting his judgment. On the appointed day, at the appointed time, I get the car somehow into his garage. The mechanic takes over.

I stand around in rough clothes, soil my hands when he is not looking, let my language slip-all this and more to show that I know.

“This water pump will have to go or it will break the radiator too.”

Water pump! I never knew that I was carrying a minor irrigation project under that old bonnet. But Mr. Mechanic is an honourable man.

“The gasket is burnt up, we’ll need a new one”. Basket? What basket? Oh, a gasket! The gasket, when I finally get to see one, could not be more different from a basket if it tried.

The transference of knowledge goes on “The oil has to be changed every 2,000 km. The clutch plate could last with luck till next Sunday.” I begin to wonder whether it would not have been wiser to go to the scrap market and try for a bargain while the going was good.

I stand and watch the mechanic on his voyage of discovery. The man is terrific. He touches everything, which has something wrong with it. Later, studying his bill, I realize that everything he touched had to have something wrong with it.