Between automobiles and me, it was love at first sight. Just about a year old and barely able to walk, I understood and appreciated cars for what they were. By the age of three, I would refuse to go to sleep until someone in the household took me out for a late-evening drive. Before I turned nine, I had learnt how to drive, and having almost run over my neighbours multiple times, started getting the grasp of it.
This brings me to my first relationship with a car. My grandfather’s Maruti 800 was a very special car. It was the first fuel-injected, in-line three-cylinder mated to a five-speed transmission, that the country had seen. The fifth gear took the car where no Maruti had gone before. It was the first time that regular Indian drivers had experienced the bliss of being able to cruise at a hundred kilometres-an-hour, in such a small car. It was magical and better than any high, anything could ever bring.
I once strapped my six months old little brother into the passenger seat and took him for a drive. The kid loved it, my parents didn’t. When we got back home my brother was hugged and kissed multiple times over, and I was grounded. By the time I was just at the right age to drive, I had driven almost every car available in the country and still wanted more.
When boys my age would rush to the park, play cricket, or meet girls at coffee shops, I would sneak the car out of the front gate and disappear.
When I went to a boarding-school, cars were the only thing I could talk about, and very few believed me when I told them driving was one of my hobbies. But that did not stop me from talking about it. I would spend my nights looking at magazines, reading about new car-launches, international auto shows, and test-driving experiences. When my fellow students were busy cramming their heads with what was in our schoolbooks, I would fantasize about driving cars and writing on the experiences. When I wasn’t daydreaming about driving, I would sit and draw cars. Any car, any model, any colour, if it appealed to me, I would attempt to draw it.
Come adolescence, and suddenly everybody seemed to know their way around cars. This bred the unhealthy spirit of immature competitiveness and hence, street racing. A couple of almost-accidental encounters and near-death experiences did the trick, and I decided to build on my patience and control over the steering wheel. My grandfather would often say that what’s in our hands, is more important than what’s beneath our feet. Speed will come and go, but control must never be given up. He would often scold me for being too rash or getting quickly influenced by the thrill of speed. Patience is what he hoped I would learn. Patience is always the key.
I completed my B-tech in Automobile Engineering and through the four years of graduation, spent more sheets on drawing cars than filling answers in examinations. Engineering was more an experiment to see what I could learn about cars, than a career choice. Soon enough, I was getting ready to pursue my actual interest – Automotive Design.
I pursued and completed my Post-graduation in Transportation and Product Design and learned much more than I had in engineering. As a designer, I began to see the emotions and feel the shapes and surfaces of cars and motorcycles. My hand got better at sketching, and I was able to express ideas and concepts with more clarity.
After completing my course, I worked with an automotive multinational as a Stylist in their R&D department. Spending a year at the company gave me a lot of insight into the industry’s design processes, and soon, I moved to Pune where I co-founded automotive customization and accessory design company.
A year later, I began writing for the automobile’s column of a fairly established website and discovered a flair for automotive journalism.
In running my own startup, I’ve supervised the repair and periodic maintenance of vehicles, custom-painted cars and motorcycles, and built food-carts from scratch. Every time a project gets completed, my heart is flooded with a feeling of triumph and satisfaction. At thirty years of age, and with a decade of professional experience, I realise that even today, nothing excites me more than the sound of a self-starter being followed by the growl of an engine. I was born to drive, and to share the thrills of it with others through writing.