Goodbye Dear Maruti Omni, Bollywood’s Favourite Kidnapping Vehicle. You Abducted Our Hearts

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Goodbye Dear Maruti Omni, Bollywood’s Favourite Kidnapping Vehicle. You Abducted Our Hearts

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

D

ear Maruti Van,

I recently heard that your parent company was going to stop production of your beautiful body by 2020 and all I can say is – I have been sadder. Still, the news hit me between the eyes.    

Now that the naysayers are done trolling you with the “oho, no more kidnapping will happen now, hehe huhu hasso na, kyun nahi hass rahe mere totally original joke pe?” quips, we can finally take a minute to look back and process the fucking legendary legacy you leave behind. Our entitled millennial asses don’t give you enough credit. We’ve been so spoilt for choice with newer segments like crossovers, sub-4-metre sedans, and compact SUVs, that we overlook how there’d be no Innovas, Ertigas and other MUVs had you not come into our lives with your weird, stolid proportions.

After all, you were the original Indian minivan, an icon that represented the ’80s and the great Indian joint family. Culturally, you were to us what the Volkswagen Type 2 was to Woodstock, the generation of ’68, bad hygiene, and long-copy advertising.

When your sister, the Maruti 800 and you entered the relatively tame Indian car market in 1983-1984, the few Indian car owners at the time were affluent aristocrats or movie stars and one look at you made them want to hurl. Because back then, cars were supposed to be glamorous status symbols and the concept of boring, budget-friendly family cars was unheard of. Middle-class car aspirants like my dad could only hope to one day make enough dough to afford an Ambassador – and if he really hit pay dirt or became a Madh Island smuggler, we could have a Contessa or an Impala. But thanks to offerings like you, a year before I was born, my dad traded in his Yezdi and bought a spanking new Maruti 800. So thank you for coming around and putting middle-class Indians like my dad on the driver’s seat.

While the 800 inveigled its way into Indian life, despite its proportions as an oversized Leo Mattel dinky showpiece, you, the Omni, became the choice for any family featuring more than four people.  

Over the years, your tallboy, flat-front design has been a topic of much ridicule. But you’re still beautiful to me. Sure, they tried to give you “cosmetic changes”, facelifts etc over the years but why mess with perfection? That stubby snout in the front with the dead-inside headlights has scared countless society kids over the years. I’ll always regret the times I walked the other way when I’d see you with a bunch of men outside a dark gali.

I should’ve been braver. I should’ve known better than to trust fucking Bollywood. They gave you a bad rap as the choice of wheels of all abductors, but I don’t think your intentions were ever fully understood. You’ve always just wanted to use your 36BHP to full effect and put that 796CC engine to some good use. Whether that’s for ferrying children to school or rushing an ailing being to the hospital. But no, all people want to do is make kidnapping jokes. Well, fuck people.

So what if your flat-front end lacks the structural integrity to survive a 20km per hour collision against a bouncy castle?

Maybe it’s because we made some excellent memories together. I spent the entire summer of 2011 driving the Welfare of Stray Dogs Ambulance. Back then, 19-year-old me was confused, troubled and stressed about the fact that I had two KTs and a crush that didn’t like me back. But driving you around different parts of Mumbai from 10am to 5pm made everything seem okay. Sure, your steering wheel felt like I was driving a Sanjay Water Tank and your non-existent seat reclining option gave me permanent lumbar tissue damage. But looking back, I had no business being over five-feet tall. Just see how happy I look!

Omni

Just see how happy I look!

At one point, I recall looking into the backseat of the ambulance and all the strays we were taking back to the kennel. “Hmm, could fit a lot of junk in that trunk,” I thought, before chuckling at how ridiculous Black Eyed Peas’ lyrics are. I’m sorry for that joke. I am also sorry for listening to BEP. I think the fact that you didn’t have an AC, coupled with the fumes from your engine might have made me delirious sometimes. Teenager me just enjoyed how the ambulance batti on top of you would get us free rides on the sea link and allow me to whiz through traffic even when there wasn’t an emergency. I’ll also miss how the kids would run helter skelter at the sight of us. The words, “Ambulance wale bhaiya aa gaye! Baas maar raha hai. Bhaago!”, still reverberate in my adult ears. Along with the sound of your godawful horn. Good times, Omni. Good times.

And now they want to discontinue you over some stupid safety reasons. So what if your flat-front end lacks the structural integrity to survive a 20km per hour collision against a bouncy castle? And that your brakes are to road-safety what the pull-out method is to contraception? You got stuff done, man, with zero emphasis on trivial shit like comfort or safety of passengers. Your tendency to turtle at literally any turn that the driver makes at a speed higher than 40km per hour is legendary. Cease production by 2020, my damaged ass!

Farewell, dear Omni. My dad tells me he used to borrow my uncle’s Maruti Van to go to the drive-in theatre with my mom before I was born. Which is strange considering he already owned a Maruti 800. So chances are, I was one of the countless kids that were conceived in you. We’ll always have that.

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