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The Good Life

Ghodi or GADDI?

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While most men have little say in choosing the mode of transport to reach their wedding venue - a white, handsome ghodi (mare) is a tradition you can't horse around with - they have very clear ideas about how they want to drive their bride away. In style, of course. We're not talking stretch-limo or the latest Merc CClass but vintage or classic cars whose old-world charm has many couples falling for them these days.

Vintage cars (those produced before 1929) and classic cars (manufactured up until 1965) are now a popular feature at Indian weddings. Bahadur Singh, a rustic but affable gentleman, who owns "about 15-20 vintage and classic cars" and runs a restoration workshop, has seen a steady rise in increase in demand for his cars, especially for weddings.

"The numbers have definitely gone up, " says Singh, while simultaneously shouting out instructions to one of his drivers. "In January, I had to send my cars out for six weddings. A lot of people want to do something different and vintage cars allow them to do that. The most popular cars are the open-top ones, convertibles as they're called, " he adds. The gleaming bestsellers from Singh's collection include a red 1966 Skylark, 1959 Chevrolet and a Mercedes convertible. He charges anywhere between Rs 15, 000 and Rs 35, 000 depending on the area and distance.

Ankush Karwal and his once-girfriendnow-wife Ikroop had wanted to give tradition a twist at their wedding. Not keen on getting a BMW or any other equally expensive and shiny car, they zeroed in on a motorcycle as their 'getaway vehicle'. But just 10 days before their wedding, another couple chose a similar set of wheels and it was back to the drawing board. Ikroop's idea of a golf cart pipped Karwal's idea of a green-yellow autorickshaw but a chance conversation with a cousin sent Karwal on the hunt for a vintage car in Chandigarh.

"My cousin told me about this person who has a vintage car but I didn't know whether he would be willing to rent it, " he recalls. His quest seemed fruitless when he learnt that there was a vintage car rally scheduled for the same day as his wedding. The rain gods came to his rescue as did some sweet talking and he finally managed a 1926 pink-coloured Austin for his shaadi.

"It was pink and I knew that IK would just love it. I'd sworn my family to secrecy and when she saw the car, she couldn't stop laughing. To match the car, I even wore a pink turban, " he says. "I got a great bargain on the beautiful car. " Karwal got the car for a mere Rs 5, 000 for both wedding functions - one at a gurudwara, and the other according to Hindu rites.

Daljit Sean Singh, or DJ as he's popularly known, is a fairly busy wedding planner and decorator. He also happens to be a motorhead and a vintage car freak.

"I wanted to drive the black Oxford Morris that's been in my family for many, many years to my wedding, " says DJ. Though he rode the ghodi to the mandap, he was very clear about leaving in the Oxford Morris. And even had a backup for the old and slightly unreliable vintage family car. "I'm still looking for a part so I can't really drive the Morris around so I got a backup car and shifted into it at the gate of the hotel, " adds the 43-year-old.

Diljeet Titus, a well-known name and face in legal circles and an avid vintage car collector - some would call him obsessed - can understand the sudden rush for vintage cars. "Brand new modern cars look like they were a part of the dahej, " he states.

"Vintage or classic cars have an old world charm and it adds to the fun and gaiety of the celebrations. In the '60s- '70s, vintage cars were used even for the cheapest wedding. So, in a way this trend is a revival of that. " Titus' collection is over 20 cars, and expectedly, he receives a fair number of requests for his cars but he only lends them to friends. Apart from being the fun element in a wedding, vintage cars also attract a lot of attention and make for great photographs. Karwal agrees. "Even though the car stalled twice on the way to the hotel after the wedding, it was a definite show-stopper. People were taking pictures on the road when it stopped. Some IPL players were staying at the hotel and they couldn't resist clicking a few pictures themselves, " says Karwal, who works at Standard & Poor's Capital IQ.

It's not just cars of American or British make that star at weddings. In the pretty, rolling hills of the Cotswolds, Karma Kars' India-inspired cars for weddings are a huge hit. Suzie Goodman started the business in 2000 when she imported four Ambassadors direct from Calcutta. Today, the kitschy 1950s Ambassador, upholstered in the traditional wedding colours of red and gold, is a show stealer at many weddings.

CLASSIC FUN

Classic car road trips are a huge draw for Indian motorheads during their foreign travels. Diljeet Titus rarely gets a chance at home in India to drive any of his 20-odd vintage and classic cars but remembers the 2010 road trip he did in the United States. "I hired a 1957 blue-andwhite Chevrolet BelAir and did 2, 500 kilometres on the famous Route 66. The car was great fun to drive and I got a chance to see places that would be difficult to find on the map!" Titus recalls. The 1949 skyblue Buick Super Convertible that the men in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara drove inspired Tina Khanna and her Los Angelesbased two friends to do the same when they travelled to Spain for a holiday. "It was surreal. We felt like we were part of some fancy movie and the car is just such a beautiful piece of machinery, " she says.

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