Remember, clearly, what it felt like to drive a Lamborghini for the first time. I was very terrified, I was very slow, and I was only too relieved, at the end of my ten kilometre stint, to not be covered in airbags and fire. While upside down.
But, as I’m writing this, the Lamborghini feels pale in comparison. Saying this in a magazine that revers Lamborghini is nothing short of a crime, but think about it. The Aventador has an air-con, a trillion airbags, brakes that can stop even the rotation of planet Earth and safety architecture that can give some forts a serious complex. This car/chariot/monstrosity you see in the pictures is exactly the opposite. You don’t need an air-con because there is no weather-protection whatsoever, the roof is about twenty feet above the ground (allow me the liberty of mild exaggeration), your face will hit the steering wheel quicker than even the fastest airbags in the world can react and there are brakes, sometimes. I have heard of marriage being a roller coaster ride, so I guess it’s only befitting to embark on it in something that looks like this.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
Simple – just give a talented bunch of craftsmen lots of recycled aluminium, a dash of actual silver, and an exuberant designer. The bodywork for this car came from Uttar Pradesh and was assembled here, in Mumbai, and while it looks like bits of careless bolt-ons, it is actually based on a pretty rigid framework. The floor of the car, if it can be called one, has been strengthened (more heavy metal, what else?) and almost no panel is hinged on a single brace. If something breaks, the show must go on without interruption. That’s customer service for you! It’s not proven how scientifically true the ‘engineering’ behind this is, but it can take a bridegroom to his destination without giving him the shivers – case closed.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Left to my own devices, I would have never figured out the entry-point to this car. There is nothing on it that looks like a door, and milliseconds before I could make the embarrassing climb over the tall bodywork, the Karan part of the ‘Karan-Arjun Brass Band', reached for something on the inside of the left-hand side ‘door', magically opening it for me. With the exception of the groom’s perch, which is a regal affair of an upholstered bench, the interior of the car is absolutely bare-bones. There is only one seat, it’s non-adjustable, and if you have even the mildest hint of a beer belly, the steering wheel is going to carve through it. It’s as if someone carefully thought of making this car as crude as possible. Why the small mercies? May as well have made it out of thorns and rust, no?
It’s too late now. I have to drive it, and so I squeeze myself into the driver’s seat, start the engine, and depress the clutch (which feels like it’s in pieces), letting go of the pedal almost all the way before the thing actually starts to roll forward. The accelerator pedal has the integrity and composure of a loose teenager, and the steering, I notice worryingly late, has the directional accuracy of a... no, wait, it has no accuracy whatsoever. The first challenge as presented to me by Aneesh is to go around a roundabout nearly a dozen times, something I find nauseating to do even on foot. Sitting unbelted (sorry about that – there was no seatbelt), I shift into second, building up and maintaining momentum and as I begin the dizzying process, I observe that the A-pillar is quite literally a pillar, which means visibility goes right out of the non-existent window. I try looking out of the sides, in the hope that I can at least brake early enough after hitting whatever unfortunate car/wall/human that comes in my way, and I try peeking from between the prancing horses. Not much seems to work. Needless to say, you need to be a very religious man to be able to drive this beast.
To its credit, there are hardly any vibrations – perhaps because it’s so weighed down with metal – and once the momentum is set, it chugs along like any other Mahindra would. The gearshift is a bit wooden, but that’s not as big a problem as the dimensions of this vehicle. For someone who can’t drive a car perfectly without parking sensors, referring to static prancing horses for cornering judgement in traffic definitely posed a challenge. And as you can tell from the pictures, rear-ward visibility is worse than in a Lamborghini Diablo – there is none, or a bridegroom, depending on the occasion. I can’t tell you how good or bad the suspension is because I only ever drove it in a built-up environment, but then where is the time to notice ride quality when you’re busy fighting the steering wheel to even go in a straight line?
That said, as hard as it is to drive, it’s entirely worth being seen in it. People around me seem to be looking, no, glaring, endlessly at this motored chariot. Behind the security of my (equally loud) Ray Bans, I observed that people are, at first, taken aback at the sight of seven silver horses charging waywardly at something or the other and then, their expressions seem to relax as they scan the vehicle to find who the groom is. By the time they spot me, they’ve broken into an appreciative smile (or mocking laughter – both are acceptable) and perhaps admire the grace with which this thing motors around. Little do they know about the plight of the poor driver! I’m constantly applying opposite lock, tapping the brake pedal frequently just to reassure myself and for once, I wished I had more hands so I could indicate without driving into a tree. But still, the plight of the driver is a thousand times better than the plight of an actual horse in such an environment. I still had a seat, a lot of metal around me, a floor underneath, and no excited groom flung over my shoulder. Entirely illegal, this car, but at least it’s doing the horses of this world some good!
IS IT FUN?
Yes, if you find sky-diving too mundane and diving in an icy lake on the North Pole too boring. Alright, honestly, I would have loved to drive this chariot a bit longer. That it is far from mechanically refined is a let-down, but considering it hardly ever gets out of crawling speed, with a bunch of lost-in-celebration men with awful dance moves leading it, I doubt it’s much of a bother for the people concerned. What I regret is not having yumped it, though I’m not sure how I planned to get it up to yumping speeds anyway. The absolute lack of creature comforts and the sheer dangerousness of the engineering makes it really charming. I won’t say I want to buy one, but I’d like to see how spectacularly I could brighten up someone’s wedding day with some sideways driving moves...
What did the build cost?
Close to Rs 6 lakh, excluding material transportation. Sounds like a lot, but then aluminium is expensive. Ask Jaguar!
Is it even legal?
Absolutely not. But owners of such vehicles are party to arriving at ‘amicable conclusions’ when law enforcement catches up with them.
Why is it so popular?
Because it beats riding an unpredictable horse, we suppose. And it can carry an earth-shattering sound system, too!
Where can you rent one?
Anywhere, really, but if you live in Mumbai and feel a burning desire to get married in style, ring up Dilip Kalkhair of Karan-Arjun Brass Band on +91-9833279811
Why do people get married?
Because they never learn...