By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
The recent passing away of a close friend, D.R. Shivram, a coffee planter and an ace car rallyist of a bygone era, brought back to my mind fond memories of some very good times that we as a group of friends had, while doing the things that we then loved to do and which we can now only re-live in the realms of our fading memories.
Shiva, as we used to call him and another close friend, Feroz Asgar Ali were perhaps the first car rallyists from Mysore during the late seventies and early eighties who had made quite an impression on the rallying map of our region. Incidentally, they were certainly the first two persons who started using radial tyres on their Fiat 1100 cars in our city and then set the ball rolling for other car enthusiasts to do likewise.
But this development was not without its share of disagreements, disbelief and even resistance from many sceptics, all of whom very quickly became converts to the ‘radials-only’ rage!
Radial tyres which had just then arrived on the motoring scene in our country, first as expensive imports and later after being manufactured indigenously by JK Tyres in the year 1977, had a rather difficult time getting accepted by people who felt that they would be too hard and harsh on the feeble suspensions of our two flagship cars, the mighty Ambassador and its little sister the Fiat. Only after Shiva and Feroz showed what they could do to the performance and ride comfort of cars, without harming them in any way, were we conservative Mysureans emboldened enough to taste and consequently relish their amazingly different performance.
My late father too, switched over to radials for good, only after test-driving their rally-readied car. But he chose Apollo instead of JK because his close friend B. Madhusudhana Rao of Madhu Tyres, on Hanumantha Rao Street, from whom we bought all our requirements of tyres, vouched for them.
Interestingly, although a very sedate and serious type of man himself, Madhusudhana Rao happened to be the own elder brother of Dwarakish, the most popular and well-known comedian of the Kannada cinema world, who during the peak of his acting career, used to send millions of his fans into peals of irresistible laughter!
The most prestigious achievement of the two rallying partners, Shiva and Feroz, certainly was bagging the first place in the Indian Cars category of the Himalayan Rally, along with their friend Dr. Rajesh Kadakia of Hyderabad. The two also stood first in the first ever K-1000 Rally in the year 1980. Perhaps unknown to most people and surprising as it may seem, the Karnataka 1000 Rally, more popularly known just as the K-1000, started in the year 1975, was the first such event in our State and it continues to be the third oldest running rally in the entire world. It is a flagship annual event organised by The Karnataka Motor Sports Club (KMSC), one of the founder members of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI).
Come rally time and I would carefully time my home visits and come down to Mysore with great eagerness from far away Gulbarga, where I was then a medical student. It used to be a very exciting time, spending a few days with my rally-happy friends of whom I had a good many then. We would all be immersed in endless discussions about cars, bikes and all possible modifications, both real and imaginary, that were reportedly being done to their machines by the competing participants.
Because not all of us could possibly experience their performance in person, these fireside discussions alone would be enough to sustain the rush of adrenaline that used to keep the fires of our frenzy burning bright. A few of us would very often take turns proudly driving around the city in the modified cars or bikes, emblazoned with their serial numbers, and the names and blood groups of their drivers and navigators, as if we were the participating rallyists ourselves!
After I returned to Mysore as a full-fledged doctor, full of elation and enthusiasm, though not the much-needed experience, I used to always be the local area ‘Rally Doctor’, standing in readiness with the medical team, to handle any emergencies. Amid the only few organising team members who would be privy to the forbidden knowledge of the actual state and twists and turns of the rally route, I would be in a state of mandatory quarantine imposed by the rule book! And, although temporarily isolated from my other friends, I used to greatly enjoy the ecstasy my privileged position bestowed on me!
My base and ambulance bay always used to be a small shack on the premises of the Lakshmi Service Station on the KRS road, which sadly was shut down in July this year. All these years, every time I passed that way, I used to feel a warm glow of joy inside me but now, every time I do that, I feel a slight pang of pain that a milestone from my happy past is gone forever.
Nevertheless, in my mind’s eye, I still see a young, pleasantly plump doctor, attired in a crisp white coat, holding a walkie-talkie and standing proudly, next to a gleaming white ambulance!
[This column is now eighteen years old]
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