These machines are the lifeline of the people of Maneybhanjang, and of the little villages that dot the road up to Sandakphu. The men who own them, the drivers who’re employed by the owners, and the guides who accompany tourists — all these people depend on the Land Rovers in order to put bread on the table. In fact, when the government wanted to tar the Sandakphu road, the Land Rover association here opposed the move, saying it would discourage trekkers and also allow any vehicle to traverse the route, putting them out of business. You could view this as a selfish step, but there’s also no doubt that these men love their machines as much as they do their wives and children. A Land Rover isn’t simply a machine to them — it’s a living being, worthy of as much love and attention as their own family.
One man who showers these vehicles with love and attention is Akbar, the resident mechanic. Actually, that’s doing him a grave disservice — he’s an artist, just as much as any sculptor or painter. To watch him at work, putting together a Series I petrol engine, is to be in the presence of someone who lives and breathes his art. His every move is measured, precise; his touch is gentle and subtle. When I meet him, he’s putting an Enfield clutch chain onto the engine block, using it as a timing chain. “You don’t get parts easily these days, so I have to improvise.
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