Maruti 800 – an obituary?
After the iconic Bajaj scooter, another symbol of the eighties and the then acme of middle-class ambition — the Maruti 800 — is driving into history.
With new emission norms kicking in, it won’t be sold in 13 major cities.
Nearly three decades ago, this delicate looking car in various hues begged for space on Indian roads next to ageing off-white rivals whose stolidity was misinterpreted as dependability and ruggedness.
The car entered my life only as a toy model as we were only aspiring 800-buyers but that didn’t beat its influence.
The Maruti 800 introduced the middle-class to the “small is beautiful” concept at a time when even music systems were supposed to be as tall as cupboards.
Made near India’s capital, the car was tailor-made for the brash, flashy Delhi yuppies that were just coming into their own in the 80s.
It announced the arriviste’s entry into the ‘vertiginous altitude of Delhi’s class system‘ as Rana Dasgupta describes it.
And in small towns, this not-so-expensive car was the kind of dowry that earned the guilty parties bragging rights of being ‘car-wallahs’.
The Japanese, when they designed the Maruti 800, knew what it could do but it is the Indians who showed them what the little red car could be made to do.
The Maruti 800 was as often found on the highways as in narrow lanes, proving the superiority of the user over its maker — and of Indian adaptability over Japanese technology.
In a nineties television ad, Maruti even claimed a service station in the rugged terrain of Ladakh.
The Maruti 800 will be phased out as the Bharat IV norms are extended across the country over the next few years.
Like old soldiers, it seems this road warrior too won’t die, just fade away.