So yesterday I renewed an old friendship.
Margaret Thatcher, or Maragatham Tatachari (borrowed from a brother-in-law’s joke), alias Maggie is a split personality. At once very English, and yet, very Madras.
Maggie is a rather unusual lady. Now sixty eight years old, she was one of a batch of Morris Minors that were imported into India as CKD kits and assembled in Madras by Addison and Company, with a view to demonstrate their capability to manufacture these cars in India under licence. However, the Birlas of Hindusthan Motors, who were already in collaboration with Lord Nuffield of Morris Motors, was able to prevent this from happening. Addisons lost the race and Hindusthan Motors finally got to manufacture a slightly updated version of the same car in India, as the Baby Hindusthan.
It had been months since Maggie, Ishaan and I had traveled together. What better day than yesterday to make a long trip into the countryside?
Ishaan and Maggie share a special relationship. When Maggie joined our family in 1990, Ishaan was a year old. The two door car meant that we could put him into the back seat and not be worried that he would open the door. Maggie taught Ishaan to drive and got him his driving licence as well.
The Morris Minor was an advanced car for its time. It has light steering and a simple torsion arm suspension. Maggie is vastly underpowered, though, with a tiny 800 cc side valve engine of pre-war origins. Later Morrises graduated to a 1000 cc engine.
Maggie is a bit worse for the wear; she needs a paint job now. But all that can wait for some time. Maggie coughed to life at the first crank. Morris engines do not have water pumps and have a vast radiator, through which water circulates on the thermosiphon principle. That means that Maggie takes a bit of time for her engine to run smooth and everything to gel nicely. We made our way through the early morning traffic and after Yelahanka, opened up the throttle. The burble of the engine kept tune with the shrill cadence of the cicadas, as we pointed Maggie’s snub nose in the direction of Makalidurga.
Have you heard of Makalidurga? It is a railway station on the Bangalore- Hindupur line. Between Makalidurga and Thondebavi lies a spectacular stretch of railway track, which hugs the rocky hills of the plateau and slowly climbs up the slope to Bangalore.
Maggie, Ishaan and I lay in wait, and were not dissatisfied. A double header goods train, probably carrying iron ore or fly ash for cement, struggled up the slope with its heavy load. We played our game, racing the train in Maggie. We reached the bridge just as the locomotives chugged into sight.
There is nothing more soothing that lounging under a tree after a drive, and watching trains go by.
And a good time was had by all.