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In concept, it sounds beautifully simple. Take a few Nanos and head off on an epic, around the country drive. Throw in the media, have everybody drive a leg or two and finally, at every major town or city, have some lucky winners of some obscure competition drive the car for a first hand feel. In reality, it’s not that easy.

 

For one, take the sheer logistics of it all. Coordinating a drive on this scale, especially when so many people have to be included, can easily turn into a nightmare. Then, to top it all off, the requisite permissions everywhere; India is a country where if you stick all the red tape end to end, you could probably reach the moon.

Anyway, I arrived in Chennai to a warm reception from the intrepid Shobiz Champions, the guys who had to endure the whole journey. Three Nanos in delectable shades of pink, lime green and red were there for me to drive. I was ushered towards the lime green car and off we went, puttering around Chennai to visit Gandhi Mandapam, a shrine in tribute to the Mahatma. Thence, we headed to Marina beach, where at last we had some time and freedom to take a few pictures. The following morning, we were off to Bangalore or Bengaluru as it’s known nowadays. Corralled into formation by an Indica and a Sumo Grande, we bid ‘Tata’ to Chennai.

This was when things would get interesting, I’d hoped. But a regular four lane highway and strict convoy driving rules meant that the hours ticked away slowly. The Nano is well suited to the city, but out on the highway, you feel a little vulnerable. The cars would drop speed at the merest hint of an incline and the large-ish gap between third and fourth gears meant downshifting would only lead to over-revving the engine. Patience. Time to reflect. Then, strangely a welcome sensation of calm. Maybe it was the summer afternoon haze or the green countryside or the drone of the Nano’s two-pot motor, but I was beginning to enjoy this. With some oldies on the stereo, which surprisingly boasted of USB connectivity, it wasn’t too bad.

We got off the highway at Ambur, a small, chaotic town bursting at the seams with buses, all with shrill air horns. Jolted out of my reverie, I nevertheless enjoyed the lunch at a nondescript place which really did boast of some finger licking good chicken curry. Fed and rested, we were back on the road. The Nano’s little fuel tank meant that we had to stop frequently for petrol, but we were making decent progress nonetheless. An average speed of just under 40km/h isn’t too bad, considering the stops en route.

On a straight four lane road, the Nano might feel a little out of depth, but if you watch your mirrors and keep to the left, you can trundle along peacefully. On the one time we had a curve in the road, the Nano did not seem to like it very much and the rear heavy balance and body roll conspired to protest the corner. Yes, in an emergency situation, a Nano might not be your vehicle of choice, but if you stay alert and anticipate what the traffic around you is doing, you can progress in relative safety.

In Bengaluru, the Nanos attracted a lot more attention than they did in Chennai for some reason. At traffic lights, there were lots of questions. Cell phone cameras were deployed everywhere we went. Curious on-lookers always had questions, but when told the Nanos were on a ‘superdrive’ around the country, at least three people asked me, ‘‘but why?’’

The drive completed, and the requisite photo calls dealt with, it was time to part company with Shobiz Champion Shiva and his merry men. The following morning, they would drive to Kolhapur and onward. As for me, it was back to the grind, at a gruelling pace, in cars which I know can easily best the Nano’s pace by more than twice the amount. But who cares, really? Sometimes, it’s the journey, not the car.

 

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