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Thursday, 28 December 2017
Book conversations: The Nanologues
The Nanologues Vanessa Able Hachette India, 2013
If I were to tell you that somebody bought a Tata Nano car... you are likely to react by saying,
Why!! Of all the things...
If I were to add that that somebody went on a round-trip of India in the Nano...
Whaaaat!! No way...!
And if I were to add that that somebody happens to be a woman...
And... this gets better... that somebody is a British woman; a foreigner who has no driving experience in India...
Aaaaargh!!! [while jumping up and down in disbelief and banging your head against the wall...]
That's just what this is about: a single white woman on a trek around India in a Tata Nano car, and somehow completing the journey to tell her tale.
In this engaging account, Vanessa Able combines statistics, politics, culture, lack of road etiquette/discipline/decorum/courtesy that is all too familiar an Indian trait, and of course, the experience of driving a Nano which is symbolic of India's economic rise.
Or at least it was, when it was first launched. It has since lost its place in the arch-lights in the wake of other brand innovations.
To be fair to Nano, this review is four years too late. In this period, the leading car maker, Maruti has come up with its own technological marvel that is holding sway currently: Maruti Celerio - the gearless wonder, which I happen to drive currently. And I can vouch for the ease of driving experience of the Celerio (but not the lofty fuel efficiency that the company claimed at the time of its launch).
The AMT gear technology of Celerio has caught on so well that Maruti has forced other companies to include this in their own models. Tata Nano recently has followed suit recently. Also, Nano is no longer available as the Rs-one-lakh car; all of its variants are now priced above two lakhs.
This book is also about driving, and the exasperating experience that driving is in India. In a reverse of Able's experience, I have driven for eight years in various parts of the UK during my days in the NHS - sometimes up to 100 miles in a day - and I can fully empathise with her predicament.
The difference in driving experience in between the two countries is the same that exists between chalk and cheese. Don't even try to understand the absence of any road-virtue in our culture, although I did make an attempt to address this issue in Angst.
Able's love for the Nano is evident throughout the book, whom she personifies by naming 'her'. This is essentially a road-book, akin to a road-movie; if that's the genre that appeals to you, then this is right up your street...!
I hate driving on our roads... but it is really awe-inspiring that somebody 'enterprising in a good way' such as Able has taken the bull by its horn and survived - if you leave out a few bumps and scratches.
Therefore, it gives me immense pleasure in saying that Vanessa was Able to fulfil her Abhilasha before saying Tata to India... Sorry, couldn't resist that one...!