The Marathon Man
While speaking at the inauguration of the three-day International Centre for Automotive Technology Summit, in late-November 2019, the Union minister of road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, mentioned that the government had allocated Rs1 lakh crore for the construction of several high speed highways.
 
Specific mention was made of the Delhi-Mumbai high-speed road corridor. Not only would the highway connect Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, it would also “reduce the road travel time between the two cities to just 12 hours, which at present takes about 25 hours.” 
 
He also said that the distance would shorten from 1,450km to 1,250km. For the distance of 1,250km to be covered in just 12 hours, a vehicle would have to drive nonstop at an average speed of 104km per hour (km/h), which is higher than the top speed legally allowed (100 km/h) on India’s expressways, most of which are speed restricted at a really underwhelming 80 km/h. Of course, this would be possible only if there is no traffic whatsoever, no stops, no pause for a coffee break, nothing. Yet, all the while at an illegal speed of 104km/h.
 
Realistically, the average speed will need to be 130 km/h, or more, if the overall average of 104km/h has to be maintained, after allowing for quick driver changes and coffee breaks. In Europe, where most countries have 130km/h as the speed limit on highways, the thumb rule calculation to get to a destination is to count an hour for every 100kms. Thus, the distance between Paris to Bordeaux, which is an exact 500km, is doable in around five hours, if there is no traffic getting out of Paris, or getting into Bordeaux.
 
The current government had been talking about upping the speed limit to 120km/h, which may still not be enough for people to get from Delhi to Mumbai in 12 hours.
 
For now though, the fastest way to get to Mumbai from Delhi without flying, is the Rajdhani Express, which takes 16 hours and 10 minutes to cover the 1,384kms.
 
Some very skilled (and brave) drivers I know of have taken an hour or two more than the Rajdhani. I am not aware of any one amongst the people I know in India, who has taken less time than India’s fastest train.      
 
Yet, on 1 December 1977, a car with two people covered the distance of 1,450-plus kilometres between Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay then), from India Gate all the way to the Nariman Point, in less than 12 hours! That’s an average speed of over 120 km/h. Which would imply that the car was travelling at mostly 160 km/h, and perhaps reaching speeds of 180, maybe 200 km/h in patches.
 
“The car’s top speed was about 230 km/h, and there were times when we must have been doing over 200 km/h,” explained, via email, the driver of the car that day, Sobieslaw Zasada.
 
(Sobieslaw Zasada)
 
It was not a case of Delhi belly, which had had them fleeing at such speed: it was the second running of the London-Sydney Rally, which was passing through India. Sixty-nine cars took the start on 14 August 1977, in London, and an Indian, from Bombay, Dr Bomsi Wadia was among them, in a Ford Lotus Cortina. 
 
The winner of the first London-Sidney (from 1968), Andrew Cowan was back, behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 280E. Several of the veterans of the first marathon were back too: Paddy Hopkirk, Giancarlo Baghetti and Polish rallying ace Sobieslaw Zasada.  
 
Zasada was in the lead in a Porsche 911 Carrera when the rally arrived in India. Though it has been more than four decades since Zasada and his navigator Wojciecj Schramm competed, 90-year-old Zasada clearly remembers the run from the Pakistan border to Delhi, and then to Mumbai. 
 
 
Relating his experience to Grzegorz Chmielewski (and translated by Aleksandra Kasztelewicz) on behalf of this writer, Zasada remembered, “We spent a few hours in the hotel (it was probably the Hilton), and on 1 December, at 1:35am, we set off on the competitive section to Bombay. The asphalt road was narrow, wavy, and alongside it, again millions of people. We were to arrive in Bombay on 1 December, at 18:00hrs, but we were there four and a half hours earlier. There was heavy traffic in the streets of Bombay, but the rally cars took priority, and the police helped us a lot and did a great job.”
 
 
As Zasada mentioned, there may have been millions of witnesses… either way, the passage of Zasada in his Porsche must have been the stuff of legends… he was so quick, arriving at the time control in Mumbai so well ahead of time that the control set-up was not ready, and the marshals could not note the time of his arrival!
 
 
After Mumbai, the event curled south and east to Pune and Bangalore and then to Chennai, when the cars were shipped to Penang, in Malaysia. Until then, Zasada was leading, but an accident in Australia caused considerable loss of time, with the Polish rally star finishing a sad 13th. Once again, the slower, but steadier Andrew Cowan won the London-Sydney, in a Mercedes.
 
(Author of several automotive books, founder editor of many leading auto mags, Gautam Sen has also consulted with most of the Indian auto majors. He has also worked with several leading car designers such as Gérard Godfroy, Tom Tjaarda and Marcello Gandini, among others.)
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    Sridevi: The Chandni Whose Dreams Remained Unfulfilled 
    It has been two years since Sridevi passed away in a freak mishap on 24 February 2018. The other day I was watching English Vinglish (2011), the Gauri Shinde directed film that was acclaimed by critics and masses alike. In between watching her histrionics on screen, what pained me was her physical appearance.
     
    One felt a lump in the throat in scenes where Sridevi excelled with her subdued expressions, gait, and poise. Whether it was expressing her frustration with her colleague who falls for her charms, by telling him that she was a married woman with two children or expressing appreciation for her husband’s (Adil Hussain) selection of the saree – Sridevi delivered a scintillating performance that fortuitously became her swan song.
     
     
    Unfortunately, Sridevi looked a paler version of the actress who once enthralled audiences in Pathinaru Vyadinile (1976), Priya (1978) and Mr India (1986). In fact in most scenes in the film, Sridevi looks famished and sick: as if she couldn’t draw the line between maintaining weight and follow a healthy lifestyle, and starving oneself in an attempt to look slim. 
     
    It made me think – why did Sridevi shun the arc lights for 14 years (1997 to 2011) when she could have chosen to do select films like Kajol and Vidya Balan did?
     
    What prompted her to return to films after so many years? What made her tacitly support the avaricious demands made of the producers on her behalf? 
     
    The producers of the Tamil film Puli had a hard time meeting her demands during the shoot. In fact, she even sued the producers, demanding her pound of flesh even though the film slumped at the box office. Her fees for a special appearance in the film were allegedly so high that it scared other producers to even approach her. The same Kollywood that recognized her acting skills and made her a superstar now shunned her. She got an offer to act in the iconic Bahubali but she turned it down after the makers refused to accede to her demand for astronomical fees.
     
     
    There were also reports in the media about how Sridevi went berserk shopping while she was shooting in the US for English Vinglish. The filmmakers were magnanimously tight-lipped about this, considering the film raked in decent profits at the box office.
     
     
    A film magazine called Show Time was launched way back in 1984 which had Sridevi as the cover girl on its inaugural issue. One of the articles mentioned that Sridevi’s fees per film were Rs14 lakh during those days. 
     
    Sridevi was steadily climbing the ladder of success as her films (that released in quick succession) proved to be blockbusters. She had a permanent suite in a five-star hotel in Mumbai. Her movies like Himmatwaala, Justice Chowdhury, Mawali, Nagina, Chandni became huge successes. The audiences went berserk with her beauty and acting competence, until her mannerisms became monotonous beyond a point. 
     
    Her pairing with Amitabh in Inquilab (1984) was fresh but the movie was a damp squib. Later Sridevi did movies like Akhri Raasta (directed by K Bhagyaraj) and Khuda Gawah with Amitabh and these became successful and iconic films. So enamoured was Bollywood with Sridevi that Dharmendra called her the Marilyn Monroe of India and compared her joi-de-vivre with Mumtaz, his co-star in the 70s.  
     
    The people who managed Sridevi's dates angered Padmalaya Films when they approached her for a new film. This company had given Sridevi her big break in Hindi films (Himmatwala, 1983) after a disastrous debut in Solva Sawan (1977).
     
    The film, a remake of Bharati Raaja's legendary Tamil film Pathinaru Vayadinile  had Amol Palekar playing the lead. Palekar was unconvincing as a village bumpkin, unable to evoke the sympathy that Kamal Haasan had managed to gather in the original.
     
    Embittered and furious, Padmalaya Films cast another upcoming South Indian actress Radha in their Kamyaab that starred Shabana Azmi and Jeetendra – a regular pair in Hindi films made down South. That the movie tanked at the box office is another story. Padmalaya Films had to eat a humble pie and Sridevi had the last laugh.
     
    Her rumoured liaison with Mithun Chakraborty did nothing to dent her image and popularity. Her so-called rivalry with her contemporary Jayaprada kept both of them in the news. She allegedly made her displeasure clear while acting with Jackie Shroff. Her only film with Sanjay Dutt (Gumrah) was widely appreciated. Shroff’s close friend designer Anna Singh was so miffed with Sri’s high-handedness that she claimed that she threw a chappal at her! 
     
      
    Her pairing with Anil Kapoor that began in Mr. India (1987) continued in many films until her last film  Judai (1997), before she took a sabbatical to take care of her first-born Jhanvi. Her mother Rajeswari, who was her pillar of support right from her days as a child actor, had passed away earlier. Sridevi was then like a babe lost in the woods. Her troubled relationship with her younger sister Srilatha added to her unhappiness.
     
     
    Sridevi’s altercations with film producer Sattee Shourie in later years became the grist of gossip mills. There were reports that her mother had approached tennis player Vijay Amirtharaj with a matrimonial proposal earlier. But the deal fell through. By the time Sridevi entered into a forced matrimonial bliss with the much-married Boney Kapoor (who called himself a Bollywood producer) she was already 36 years old. 
     
     
    A lot of questions remain unanswered. Whatever happened to all the money that Sridevi earned during her prime? Unconfirmed reports claim that her parents dipped into their daughter’s fortunes to give loans to their relatives at high-interest rates. Having lost the opportunity to go to school, Sridevi did not have sufficient knowledge or expertise to invest her hard-earned wealth well. 
     
     
    (Sridevi shared this photo on Twitter with her father, mother & sister on 18 June 2013 on Father’s Day)
     
    Unlike Jayalalitha, Sridevi never expressed her anguish in public about a childhood that she lost as she began acting in films right from the age of four years. Sridevi had trouble speaking fluently in English and her interviews in the media appear doctored. Residents of Andheri in Mumbai often saw Sridevi shopping in retail stores all by herself without anyone even noticing her or acknowledging her presence.
     
    Acting was the only profession that Sridevi knew and excelled in. She could have chosen scripts carefully, demanded compensation commensurate with market forces and could have come to terms with the fact that age was no longer on her side. Rather than looking at artificial ways of enhancing her beauty, how wonderful it would have been had Sridevi chosen to age gracefully!
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    COMMENTS

    Ramesh Popat

    9 months ago

    welcome back- BS!

    kpushkar

    9 months ago

    The official last rites seems another avoidable controversy. Whay should the taxpayer pay fir it??She never dis anything for society , no public service campaign Or such work.

    Pay Hikes in India To Fall to Decadal Low in 2020: Report
    A new survey report on Tuesday said that India will see the lowest salary increase in a decade this year and even the real estate and transport sector—the top national job generators—will witness lowest pay hikes in 2020.
     
    The sharpest drop in pay hikes was projected in the auto sector, reflecting its stress; e-commerce sector was seen giving a double-digit pay hike—among the highest across 20 sectors -- surveyed by on Plc, a human resource consultancy firm .
     
    "The Vehicle Manufacturing industry reported the biggest drop, from 10.1 per cent in 2018 to 8.3 per cent for 2020," the survey showed.
     
    As per the results of the survey, companies in India gave an average pay increase of 9.3 per cent during 2019, reflecting a slowdown in the economy compared to 2018. 
     
    "The projection for 2020 is down by 20 basis points to 9.1 per cent. However, despite the dip in the projections, two out of five participating companies in the survey are projecting a double-digit increase, expecting a positive economic outlook," the report added.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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