‘Our Fiat was part of a binding factor’

I still remember being driven in our cream-coloured Fiat Premier Padmini to watch the Madhuri Dixit-starrer Tezaab at Regal theatre at the busy Lal Chowk in Srinagar.

As a child, I waited in anticipation for the delivery of our first car. This was 1982. It was a sunny day and the entire neighbourhood in Radio Colony in Srinagar had collected, making this private occasion an almost-public celebration. However, I was too young to drive.

My upbringing played a vital role in the way we treated our car. My father, music legend Pt Bhajan Sopori, and mother Prof Aparna Sopori, inculcated in me the need to share things with neighbours. So our Fiat was part of this binding factor that Kashmiriyat talks about. At times, there were over half-a-dozen children sitting inside our car, going for an evening trip to the Dal Lake. Those days, the Dal water was very clean, and one could see the base of the lake with fish swimming across, as if racing with Shikaras.

In the 1980s, driving was by and large smooth. When we drove through the Dal boulevard, with my father at the wheel, it was like driving in your own private lane! Only a few vehicles were on the road. We would have a softie, available only at a few places at the time, and then proceed for a Shikara ride.

We’d also drive to the tranquil Kokernag, gorgeous Verinag. Staying there in huts and camping with the family was a memorable experience that I still cherish. In fact, my knowledge of my State, its people and its rich music heritage increased, and this had a lot to do with the journey of the first phase of my life in this car.

My grandfather, late Pt Shamboo Nath Sopori, hailed as the father of music in Kashmir, taught me a bhajan composition in raga Kedar, ‘Mujhe Aasra Hai Prabhu Bas Tumhara’, in the same car. It would make sense, as the car was devoid of a music system. Those days, there were no radio stations like FM, and radio connectivity too was inconsistent.

In its later years, the car became vulnerable to bad water and would leak water. Also, it didn’t have an air-conditioner. Despite these two handicaps, I was keen on retaining it, as I had developed a deep bond with this machine. However, constant travel took a toll on our Fiat, and we kept having to repair it. The law of nature says that you have to cherish old memories and move ahead. We finally ended up gifting our prized Fiat to my parent’s friend when we left Srinagar in 1990. It was not possible to drive it to Delhi. Eventually, I learnt driving in the same model and drove it till the mid-2000s, but it did not give me the same excitement as my first Fiat. Today, I drive a Honda City and a BMW, but neither gives me as much pleasure.

As told to Madhur Tankha

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 5:20:27 PM |

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