The title of this post says it all.. After ferrying us safely on our South India holiday, driving over 3000kms the Gypsy decided she’d had enough. As soon as we got back last month, she had to go to the car hospital for a major check up. Grunting and grinding noises from her wheels got us worried. She came back from the mechanic with the differential changed. For car dummies (like me) out there, the differential is what transmits the power of the engine to the wheels and keeps the gears in sync with the wheels. Very important basically. The Gypsy is over 15years old and is no longer in production for the public – only the defence and police. So finding a new differential is not easy. It cost us Rs.7000 ($140) to change the differential and since she came back running well, we took her in to town for a refuel. We took Abroozi along too as he’d not been in the Gypsy for a while. She was kind enough not to break down in the middle of the city but 8kms away from home.
Home is 10 kms up a very steep deserted hill. But before we could get there the Gypsy’s fuel pump (we suspect) ran dry. We’d just filled up fuel so it couldn’t have been a dry tank. It was 8.30 at night and before the Naval base is an industrial area – steel, iron ore etc – a dry, abandoned dusty place with smoke stacks spewing sulphur; not somewhere you’d want to your car to breakdown. If you did leave your car there you might return to find that someone’s walked off with a wheel. And that’s where the Gypsy started coughing and chocking and sputtering. My dear husband expertly coaxed her another 4 kms closer to the Naval base where she then truly gave up. She just refused to start up. We managed to push her off the road to the side. This is an extremely heavy car so it’s not easy for two people to push. Not to mention Abroozi sitting inside wondering why he was drifting as the car slunk away to the edge of the road.
The only option was to get the little Nano to the rescue. So I walked the dark ten minute walk to the barriers at the foot of the hill and got a lift from one of the many Navy families going up home. Abroozi and my husband sat in the Gypsy. It was Pongal harvest festival which meant a lot of drunken young chaps on motorbikes schnozzled on country hooch wandering around, so it was safer for the boys to wait in the middle of nowhere than it would be for me.
The Nano down the hill, we needed to get the Gypsy to a safer spot – one of the smaller gates leading in to a Navy training centre, the Shipyard Apprenticeship School. But the Nano is not designed to tow anything, so much so that there’s only a towing hook in the front of the car so that it can be towed. Being very good at thinking on his feet, here’s how my husband solved the problem. The Nano was reversed so that the two cars were facing each other, front to front. The idea was to tow the Gypsy 40 meters to the Navy gate, with the Nano in reverse. Since we had no towing rope in the car, Abroozi’s two leashes (one that we had on him and a spare we keep in the car) were tied together and used to join the cars up (needless to say Abroozi sat quietly in the Nano and was not part of the towing team. Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of this remarkable site, but here’s a comparison of the two cars: the Gypsy weighs around 1650 kg and the Nano weighs 600kgs…. You can see that the Nano had its work cut out.
The poor little Nano huffed and puffed and wheezed and there was plenty of smoke as the fan belt worked in overdrive. But we had movement and the Nano reversed actually pulling the Gypsy slowly along. The leashes snapped twice and had to be retied. Mind you, this is in the middle of a deserted and dark road. The drunk young chaps on bikes probably thought they were seeing a supernatural phenomemon – that country hooch really is worth it. Finally, we made it the 40 meters to the Shipyard Apprenticeship School gate where a reluctant security guard helped us push it through the gates to the safety of the Naval compound. To give you a better idea of how heavy the Gypsy is and how much work the Nano had to do, the next morning a big hefty Navy truck had to tow the Gypsy to the mechanic.
Is this the final straw for the Gypsy? Definitely not. The reason she broke down was because of a Rs.1000 fuel line that was last changed 8000kms ago when we lived in Mumbai briefly. But every time the Gypsy goes to the “hospital” she comes back with something else wrong with her. It’s like revenge for being sent to the hospital in the first place. We both have a very emotional connection to the Gypsy. My husband for the obvious reason that his dad bought it and it’s been a member of their family for those 15 years. But I too remember sitting in the Gypsy with my husband when we were just teenagers. So it’s a part of my childhood memories as much as it is part of his.
It’s quite an experience to drive a Gypsy King – you are truly the king of the road. Buses, trucks, people, cars all move out of the way. No one dares cross your path. It is a powerful presence on the road and you only realise this when you drive it. I think people who have Land Rovers feel the same way about their cars – rugged, no nonsense, tough vehicles oozing character. May not be the prettiest sleekest thing on the road but it sure is the one that commands the most respect. She’s been all over India from South to West to East: Vellore to Goa, Cochin to Mumbai, Vellore to Mumbai and back, and twice from Vellore to Vizag.
My family think that the Gypsy is a liability and that we make excuses for her. But in fact she’s the toughest thing on the road. She was retrofitted with power steering and an air conditioner. We made her GREEN and added an LPG tank and lets not forget she’s a 4 Wheel Drive. She’s not fancy in anyway – she’s got the old leaf spring suspension of an Ashok Leyland lorry, not the modern hydrolic suspension of a Volvo, and no seat belts. Perhaps we do make excuses for her – but she’s a Grand Old Dame and she’s earned it.
Anyway, I’m happy to report that the Gypsy is being looked after and the Nano achieved new heights in helping her out in times of distress. The Tata Nano PR Team were kind enough to comment on this blog when I put up a picture of the first Labrador in a Nano and I hope they’ll visit again to see the first Nano towing a Gypsy (sans photographic evidence tho..)
We consider ourselves privileged custodians of the Gypsy King and she’s a long way from her graveyard of dreams.