My First Car

Can just one day, chart the course of one’s life? Looking back at 26th August 1977, I think this day (when the London to Sydney Marathon rolled into Bombay), perhaps decided the direction of my life. I was in school then, probably in Class 8. Some local organisers assisting with the running of the Indian leg of the London to Sydney had come to St. Xavier’s High School and put a request on the notice board asking students to volunteer to welcome the rally participants.

Bob driving SUV in the desert

Principal Fr. Joe Aran, sad I needed to be in school uniform and that I would have to leave school early on 26th August, to be in time to welcome the participants. Gulu happily agreed to fetch me at 3:00pm (school ended at 3:45pm) and take me to the TC. The newspapers in Bombay (as it was known back then) were carrying daily reports after the event flagged off from London, with the focus of course being on the progress of our very own Indian team led by Dr. Bomsi Wadia.

On the morning of the day the cars were to reach Bombay, I was so excited that all I was talking of in school were the cars and some of my classmates also got enthused and said they wished they had volunteered too. Then suddenly while class was on, Father Joe Aran walked in and asked me to come with him. I looked at the clock; it was only 12:45pm and still early. Father Aran took me to the school office and said my brother would be there soon as the first car was already on the outskirts of Bombay and would reach the TC before time. Father Aran, one of my most favourite teachers, told me to remember that I was representing him and the school, and should behave properly at all times. Then my brother Gulu rushed into the office a little after 1:00pm, and said come on, we got to hurry.

He had come in a 1971 Ford Capri, a used one, which he had persuaded my Dad to buy only a year back. Gulu said he had received a call from the organisers office saying the first car was running very early and we should immediately head to Nariman Point and since our location was closer, we would possibly reach before the time control officials. It was when we were approaching Marine Drive that we heard an awesome engine roar. It was like no engine I had ever heard before. It was pure and powerful and that sound of speed was soon ricocheting off the walls of the art-deco buildings on Marine Drive. The policemen at the junction stopped us, and then as if in a blur we saw a car fly by. It was red and the engine was singing like a star.