You might say today was an Eddie day. Not only did we celebrate Eddie’s happy times with us, but the weather too was Eddiesque; cool, comfortable, and kind.
Whitefield is not the place that old timers remember it to be; the latest quip is that you need an overnight bus service to get from the western side of the city, to Whitefield. But our friends from the other side of the Bangalore planet did make it in time for our rally today.
Whitefield residents, put on our customary show of strength, with Sillu, Dale Hunter (on his Yezdi) a group of Whitefield club members and I assembling at the Whitefield club, before driving down to the Mariott hotel. After befuddling the alert Labradors that check that we do not have bombs concealed on our persons or vehicles – how many of them get to check Buicks and Chevrolets on a daily basis? – we partook of a hearty breakfast. The attendance at the rally was great, given the confirmations, with just a couple of drop outs.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Whitefield and the Marriott hotel management, who so generously hosted us and laid out a delicious breakfast, flagged us off. Kadambini Mittal, the General Manager and Deeppreet Bindra, the Director, Operations, were bustling around and I do hope that they enjoyed our presence too. Thank you, Kadambini and Deeppreet!
As we set forth to do battle with the Whitefield traffic. Suresh earnestly commanded that I should lead the way to Palm meadows and that everybody would follow. So I kept a couple of helpful traffic policemen in sight, and was followed by twelve cars. From the thirteenth car onward, the KVCCC members dispersed like the fabled arrow of the poem, that was shot into the air and fell to earth, we knew not where. So we drove, the twelve of us, through the Kundalahalli mess, dutifully following the police who waved aside other unfortunate drivers to give us clearance, only to arrive at Palm meadows and find the rest of them parked up, and asking us with a great deal of consternation what had happened. They had followed Google maps amma, who took them by the shortest route through the bylanes of Ramagondanahalli and deposited them at the abode of Palms.
Where there’s Sillu, there’s music. He and his band of merry musicians set the pace for some breezy dancing, just when it threatened to rain in sheets. Paloma Blanca soon accelerated to Zorba the Greek, and good fun was had by all; including a few Zorba Singhs. Its uncanny how the beat of Zorba lends itself so well to some Bhangra steps.
The drive from Palm Meadows to Whitefield club is a stretch where nobody can get lost. So we all managed to make the journey in good time and good shape, with the Whitefield police flying in formation up ahead of our fleet. The Whitefield club was begun in 1905, and was a watering hole for its residents – they always called themselves ‘settlers’ since then. It oozes character and evokes an era when Whitefield was a sleepy outpost of Bangalore, and not the vibrant, IT and commercial hub it is today. At Whitefield club, the music resumed, as our irrepressible President aired his skills on the harmonica and his band played on. The old members of the Whitefield Club were out in strength. Sillu hosted the delicious biryani and Mr. D’Mello, the President of the club, was our gracious host. Our own member, Waseem Khan runs a delicatessen in Whitefield and served us all delicious cup-cakes. Narendra Kumar gifted us agarbattis that he manufactures; with the wafting fragrance of traditional sandalwood.
We remembered Eddie and his life with us. Eddie joined the club in the mid-nineties and immediately galvanized all of us with his enthusiasm. His first rally, a drive to Mysore, was a disaster. The journey, which then would have taken 3 hours, took three times as much. His first car, an Austin A-55 convertible, gave trouble. But Eddie was unflappable and cheerful. His travails surely made an impression on his young children. Christopher is now one of India’s top restorers and has a long line of vintage and classic enthusiasts queueing up at his door; there is a waiting list. Debbie and Chris recalled Eddie’s enthusiasm and verve when it came to old cars and bikes, and we reflected on how much companionship this club of ours had offered over the years; how much the thrills and spills of yesterday had bonded us, in laughter and fun. Eddie’s mother, just 95 years of age graced our remembrance too.
What of the cars? As usual, our members excelled themselves.
American iron and chrome loomed over everybody else. The oldest car in the rally, and the one that probably traveled the longest distance, was D.R.S. Prabhu’s 1930 Ford Model A. Coming from beyond J.P Nagar to Whitefield is the Karnataka equivalent of the Paris Dakar rally.
However, the GM flotilla outnumbered the sole Ford. Chevy’s were aplenty. Sillu Jamal’s flamboyant 1959 Chevrolet Belvedere with the curved wavy fins looked like it had driven straight in from a Helen, Pran, Mehmood and Shammi Kapoor movie. It contrasted with the more austere slab sided later 1964 Impala of R. Vasudevan and his son Arun. I call it the ‘coming and going’ car; both ends of it look uncannily similar. Arun is one of the people who assures you that the future of the club is in safe hands; he drives his cars regularly and long. What’s more, father and son are an inseparable duo. The Chevy contingent was completed by Subramani’s 1948 Fleetmaster, a regular in our rallies for decades and two Master Deluxes from the late thirties, Narendra Kumar’s 1939 model, a clean, dignified and well maintained car and the Advaith Motors, metallic scarlet one. Again, the variations between the two were interesting to note; the scarlet bomb has pretty, exaggerated parking lights and twin stepneys mounted on the side, while Narendra’s car is a limousine, with its fold away passenger seats in the rear.
Two Plymouths, namely, Christopher’s Belvedere and Lokesh’s 1956 model and three Dodges, namely, Karthi’s Special Deluxe, Sillu’s 1954 Kingsway and Arjun’s 1955 Dodge Kingsway custom, evoked the era of the tiny tail fin, before the Cadillacs and Impalas went crazy with them in the late fifties.. To the observant, Arjun’s American iron has a G.B. Logo on the boot, because its previous owner bought the car in the UK and brought it back with him to India.
Balachandra’s rotund 1949 Buick Super 8 stood out too. I love the Super 8. It has an elephantine elegance to it; the boot and bonnet are just of the right proportions, and it echoes the design lines of a large airliner of the day, with its logo up on the nose and the four portholes on either flank.
The Union Jack nearly matched the Stars and Stripes. We had a brace of MG TCs, with Sillu’s maroon 1947 model making its debut and my own 1946 model, a veteran of many runs. TC dashboards are all style, with their pastel green instrument faces contrasting nicely with the brown of the wood. Sillu had brought along his 1964 convertible mark II Herald too. Premnath, our former Secretary, not looking a day older than he did back in the eighties was there in his Morris 1000. A couple of Austins with my 1933 Seven and Srinivasan’s 1935 Austin 10/4 convertible and the mid sixties Mini from the Advaith stable made up the rest of the British contingent. Minis can never go out of style.
Crossing the channel and onto Europe, the Germans made up the bulk of the contingent, with VWs wresting the lion’s share. Ryan Oberoi’s 67 Micro Bus; yellow, bright and oozing the spirit of hippie freedom, was matched by Sreenivasa Gowda’s and Ravi’s more staid, micro buses. Three Beetles Pankaj (66), Prithvi (67) and Byas (1970), made up the insect group. Byas is a new member and one of the inspiring ones who does all his work himself. His red convertible, owned by his family since the early seventies, is a tribute to his skills.
Surprisingly, the three pointed star was represented only by Sillu’s 1965 220S, resplendent in a very pretty dark green.
The lone Italian in the pack was Sillu’s very pretty 1962 Fiat 1200; one could almost see Sophia Loren in the drivers seat, with cool shades and a scarf flying in the wind.
The French were not to be left behind, represented by Philip Samuel’s most unusual Peugeot 203, with the even rarer Pondicherry registration; probably the only one with a single letter to designate the registration authority. The car oozes French art deco style, with the Peugeot logo framed in a delicate chrome grid and a wooden steering wheel with a neat looking dash. To me, that Peugeot was the stand out car of the rally. One rarely seen, and one restored just right; clean, accurate, and with just the right glaze of patina.
Indian classics are now a growing category. Our desi classics are getting rarer and their nostalgia value is high now. We had several Fiats, with Eddy’s very own 1961 Fiat Super Select being the oldest. That car has been so well restored, in a very pretty cream colour, with the swages on the flanks highlighted in red. Pradeep Khanolkar brought along his 1970 1100, and so did Kedarnath Swamy. If there is a competition for the most miles driven yearly by any car, Srinand’s 1950 Hindusthan 14 would be a strong contender for the prize. Fresh from a drive to Goa last month, she was there too.
The bike contingent comprised of a pair of Royal Enfield Bullets - Guruprasad’s 1961 model and Dr. Perumal’s slightly later model. Dale Hunter, an active member of the Whitefield Club, brought his late seventies Jawa and Suresh his 1984 Yamaha RD-350. Of all the Indie classics, the RD-350 is the most legendary of them all. It was lightning fast, and when launched in the early eighties, it outperformed anything on Indian roads then.
All in all, we had a great day. The weather was lovely, we feasted our eyes on the cars and bikes and they ran well too, we met old friends and made new ones, the hospitality of Marriot and the Whitefield club was great, the food delicious and the music and dance warmed us all up.
What more can one ask of a Bangalore Sunday?