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KVCCC-Rotary rally on 17 January, 2021

Report on the KVCCC-Rotary rally on 17 January, 2021

Raghunandan T R

2020 was an unforgettably forgettable year.

What better way to brush away the cobwebs of the past than to set out for a longish vintage car drive? After the lockdown was lifted midway through last year, members had sallied forth, individually and in groups, to give their mechanical steeds some exercise. Every week the KVCCC Whatsapp group had pictures of old cars and bikes, taking advantage of the reduced traffic on the roads, to put some miles on their odometers.

Yet, there is nothing quite like an old style KVCCC rally. So it was not a surprise that when the KVCCC teamed up with the Rotary Club’s observation of National Immunization Day, there was a rush of members anxious to attend. Thankfully, we had other sponsors too, apart from Mr CVL Nagendra Prasad the Governor of Rotary District 3190. There was Mr. Vinod Hyagriv, from C Krishnaiah Chetty Jewellers, Mr Jaishankar of Thanay Logistics and Mr. Shreyas, a Hobby Photographer who generously agreed to do the video coverage. A big shout goes out to all of you!

As the rally date drew close, the participation in the drive had to be capped to fifty vehicles, even though there were many who wished to participate. Such was the pent up energy in the club.

It is understandable that a few blips were to be expected. And the first, was that the venue of the flag off had to be shifted a day before the rally, from the foreground of the Vidhana Soudha, to a location in the outskirts; the Manpho ground in Manyata Technology Park. That did not dampen the enthusiasm at all.

A flag off has its own charm. As the early arrivals line up, it is time for participants to gaze at the beasts that their friends have brought. The usual suspects were all there. I always like the size contrast between the vehicles from different nations. At one end, we had several lumbering American behemoths; I counted 18 of them, and at the other, we had the will o the wisps of the road, like the Austin Seven. In between was a fascinating array of vehicles, from the cars of the people, such as Beetles, Volkswagen buses, Austins, Morris Minors, to svelte sports cars and India classics; our own faithful Landmasters, Ambassadors and Fiats.

The sight of our old regulars brought a smile – everybody seems to have pulled through the pandemic and their cars are also fighting fit. However, the newcomers and debutants attracted a lot of attention. We were not disappointed; a couple of Ponton Mercedes cars, and Vasanth Kumar’s thirties Cadillac and an equally impressive La Salle, both recent imports, one gathered, stood out. Subbaiah’s Daimler ex Maharani of Mysore Daimler DB 18 was on the road nearly two decades after it was seen last. Tom Thomas’s beautifully restored Jaguar Mark II and Kedar’s recently acquired Jolly Green Giant, his 1949 Studebaker Champion were amongst the notable debutants. As also Philip Samuel’s flaming red Buick; an unusual colour for that car, but quite impressive.

The sports cars, always a big draw, burnt rubber and made some impressive growls. They included Raviprakash’s E Type Jaguar Convertible, Jamal’s Fiat 124, Tilak’s MGB and Haseeb’s Austin Sprite.

The motorcycle group was there in strength too, Guruprasad on a 1959 Royal Enfield, a sprightly Jawa with a pretty fairing and Manav on a Honda 750/4 and Rishad on a BSA Goldstar, both joining us at the restaurant where we had breakfast.

Polio eradication has been one of the most successful of India’s public health initiatives. The Rotary has supported this cause for long, and it was indeed a privilege for KVCCC members to accommodate Rotarians in their vehicles, carrying placards that highlighted the need for complete immunization. In the wake of the pandemic, these messages also conveyed the urgency of immunization in general too.

The KVCCC was born in 1979 and has gone from strength to strength since then. The event celebrated the contributions of the Founder Members, Prithvinath, Premnath and our President, Sulaiman Jamal. It was time to remember the other senior members, who are sadly no longer with us. Many of them; Ganesh Rao, Balram Khandige, Ravikumar, Ashwath, Nataraj, Eranimos, Cauvery Saroja, were all characters with a capital ‘C’, and those of us who were fortunate to know them well, remember the wealth of experience they shared and the constant fun and laughter they brought into our lives.

Looking around, I could not help wondering that now, our cars and bikes are as well looked after as before. Indeed, they may even be more reliable now, given that one can import parts and get expert advice from the world over, unlike in the past. Given that traffic conditions are much worse now, its commendable that we are able to keep up with current congested accounts.

The ring road offers a quick getaway from the city and even though we started an hour late – it always happens and we take that in our stride – we were able to keep a good pace. There are always some chronic traffic hotspots, such as the KR Puram flyover, but no vehicles stalled or got trapped in a traffic snarl. We were also waved through the Hoskote Toll plaza, which was a pleasant surprise. We thus made good time till our breakfast stop at the Mallige restaurant, a short distance east of Hoskote.

Once the tireless restaurant staff fed carloads of hungry classic vehicle drivers and Rotarians, the sun had dispelled the early morning chill. It was ideal weather for pointing our noses eastward. I was joined by a jolly friend from the Rotary, who clung to his placard exhorting parents to get their children vaccinated against polio with loyal determination. Once free of the city traffic, the road towards Kolar is a pleasant drive. It used to be quiet at one time, but not any longer. The road offers long stretches of smooth tarmac and gentle curves that invite you to dab down on the throttle just a little more than prudence dictates.

But there are annoyances too. One is the practice of creating chicanes through the use of ramshackle barricades. With just enough space for one vehicle to squeeze through, they can hold up traffic for hundreds of meters, particularly when they are preceded by badly eroded rumble strips. Beware of them on the Kolar road; there are three or four of them, with no police supervision and intended only to enhance the danger factor, not to reduce it.

Whatever may be the thrill of the flag off, the companionship of a vintage car drive then emerges only when one reaches one’s appointed watering hole and trades notes on the drive. Otherwise, one is alone with one’s vehicle, and all the noises that emanate from it. A ‘clack clack’ from my Austin Seven just past a dodgy twist through a diabolical chicane, indicated that my car was not doing too well. I put it down to a possible loose propeller shaft, and drove the next three kilometers at walking speed, to catch up with my friend Krishna. We then limped into a vulcanizing shop, where we traced the problem to the pivot on the backplate of the off side front wheel having come loose, so that it was causing the brake drum to snag on it. A couple of hammer blows to push it back into its slot, and a sprig of cotton waste behind the wheel bearing to ensure that the brake drum stayed proud of the pivot, ensured that we could continue on the drive. I had to miss the press conference in Kolar, though, and headed on straight to Honnashettihalli, our final destination.

As we go past Kolar and head towards Mulbagal, the landscape gets more craggy and rocky. This is the Deccan Plateau at its scenic best. Once our mechanical travails were over, we basked in the bright sunshine and drove to Honnashettihalli without further mishap.

The people of Devarayasamudra greeted us with great verve. Cars were stopped and garlanded at the village, and as we drove onward to Honnashettihalli, crowds waved out at us, showered flowers and waved us down for selfies and videos.

Honnashettihalli is home to the newly constructed Morarji Desai School, in the extensive grounds of which we parked. At Gram Vikas, the NGO headed by our gracious host, Mr. M.V.N. Rao, there were more flowers, and a drum quartet to welcome us.

Mr. Rao set up Gram Vikas about 40 years back (around the same time as KVCCC was set up) and this NGO works in the field of child rights, environment and Panchayati Raj. His wife, Jayalakshmamma runs the Grameena Mahila Okkoota, which has promoted womens self help groups with a collective strength of 35000 women members in Mulbagal taluk, which is a potent economic and political force in the area.

To the front of Gram Vikas is a beautiful, tank brimming with water. This tank was rehabilitated by Gram Vikas and the Devarayasamudra Panchayat, and it now supports irrigation, fisheries and is even developing as a mini sanctuary for migratory birds.

Mark down Honnashettihalli, Devarayasamudra and Avani village in your classic drive programme; these back roads are quiet and good for an occasional drive in old vehicles.

After being treated to a sumptuous lunch washed down with a can or two of beer, we began our drives back in the mid-afternoon. Sadly, the traffic was truly insane. There was a one kilometre wait at both toll gates, including the one at Devarayasamudra. The chicanes led to even more snarls, as impatient vehicles tried to cut us off at each bottleneck. Even though it was lovely to drive the Austin with the hood down in the light of the setting sun, as night set in, it got awkward. Hemmed in by huge crowds of vehicles returning from Both cars ran well, except for a hot coil on the Morris.

We reached home at 8.45 PM. A check with other friends revealed that many of them too suffered breakdowns, largely through overheating. I consider myself lucky; I live on the eastern flank of Bangalore and therefore did not have to drive through the city to my house. Others were not so fortunate.

I reflect upon the future now. As the pandemic lifts, the traffic will be on the roads back with full force. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is mooting restrictions on driving of classic vehicles. Will drives like this be a thing of the past? Will we only be speaking in the past tense, when we think of classic vehicle drives? Will we be shut down, not only by chicanes, rumble strips and selfie seeking motorcycle suicide squads, but also by the law?

I hope not.


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