My love affair with Lucie

Published March 21, 2015
Lucy was long and curvy; goodness, it was even air-conditioned and equipped with powered windows. —
Lucy was long and curvy; goodness, it was even air-conditioned and equipped with powered windows. —

It seemed to be written in the stars; Lucie would come into my life.

I was still smarting from the loss of my first love, a little Italian devil, when Lucie appeared on the scene. She instantly became the object of affection, of not just mine but the apartment building's chowkidar Bahram Khan and my mechanic Javed Mota too.

While Javed Mota's infatuation with Lucie continued throughout the time that she was with me (primarily because she became a steady source of revenue for him), Bahram Khan's obsession wore off quickly, and he would keep cursing the day Lucie had set foot in the parking lot.

The first love of my life, the 1972 Fiat 124S, exited six months after I got married.

My second foray in matters of the heart was a big heavy Mazda 929 Luce, pronounced Lucie by all and sundry in Pakistan; so Lucie it was.

When I responded to the ad, it turned out that the owner lived right across my sister’s house! So, submitting myself to the will of the higher powers, I decided to buy the car even before I had seen it.

When I was buying my first car, I had sought advice from specialist sources like a Punjabi mechanic, a perennial car tinkerer and a Mr Know-All colleague of mine. Yet, the car had turned out to be a lemon. This time, I apologetically left it to fate.

With Lucie, it was all about looks and luxury. It was long and curvy; goodness, it was even air-conditioned and equipped with powered windows. Mind you, this was 1985 when such lavish features were rare. The tires, wide as that of a tractor, were a particularly impressive feature.

A deal was struck and Lucie was finally mine.

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With most of my acquaintances, she was an instant hit, but the person totally besotted by the car was the aforementioned Bahram Khan, who enthused:

“Tumhara gari sab sey ziada biznat hey!”
[Your car is the mother of all cars]

As it happened, the day after the deal provided the perfect opportunity to show off my new purchase:

My sister-in-law was arriving from New York and I had to pick her up from the airport. I was mildly disappointed when Cindy did not seem to pay much attention to Lucie. I guess in New York, empty parking spots attract more attention than fine cars.

The ride home was going fine when suddenly, without any notice, the engine died. It re-started after a few attempts but now, it moved at snail’s pace.

Fortunately, we were not far from home and the car managed to limp to the finish line after stopping every 20 yards to catch its breath.

Javed Mota was summoned urgently. He peered inside the engine while I waited with bated breath.

With a sad shake of his head, Javed diagnosed the Lucie with a cracked carburetor. In human medical terms, this is like a non-functioning heart; a transplant was required.

Javed Mota was dispatched to the Sher Shah used-auto parts market to fetch a new carburetor. Four hours later he returned triumphantly with the exact same part in excellent condition! This was a miracle of sorts and Javed Mota was immediately thanked with tea and biscuits.

After a long and complex surgery, the new heart was put in place and Lucie was good as new ... or so it seemed.

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Unfortunately, the first episode was a portent of things to come. A week later the starter gave up.

This was the point when Behram Khan’s love for Lucie turned to hate. The car was a heavy beast and reluctant to spurt to life even after a 100 long yards of hard pushing by a team of four strong volunteers.

The mighty Khan, being the lead pusher, had the added responsibility of rounding up the others to assist. After a few days, as the car continued to sulk, the goodwill of the volunteers evaporated. Soon it was just Khan and me sweating it out.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back manifested itself in black, smelly, fumes emanating from the tail pipe of the car.

“I regret to inform you Sir, but this time it is cancer”, declared Javed Mota. One of the engine cylinders was shot and Lucie was deemed to be terminally ill.

Not willing to throw more money down a bottomless pit, I decided to get rid of her. Lucie was given a final bath and cleaned inside out. A good coat of car polish completed the preparations for the final journey.

Finally, I bought three new spark plugs and fitted one in the rogue cylinder to make sure that it made it to the drive-by used car sale street in the Saddar Plaza area.

Accompanied by a cousin, who looks like an Arab sheikh, I drove the car into the street trying to appear smug. Almost immediately there was a flock of men running along the car, asking if we wanted to sell it.

Men are stupid; they are easily dazzled by the exterior – and Lucie was a looker if anything.

The buyer was hooked, but then he dropped a bombshell: he wanted a test drive. By now, the faulty cylinder was on its last gasp and I knew that it was a matter of minutes before the car spewed out black fumes and lost power drastically.

Alas, that is exactly what happened.

I was sweating profusely but kept my wits about me. “Oh, you know how dirty the fuel is these days; the kachra must have clogged the spark plug!”

May Allah forgive me for this blatant dishonesty, but I was a desperate man.

I jumped out of the car, opened the hood and quickly replaced the spark plug with a new one I had kept in my pocket. The car was moving again and functioned long enough for the short test drive. I had pulled it off!

And that was the end of my affair with Lucie. It was short and bitter: even the air-conditioning and power windows never functioned properly.

Beautiful as she was, there was no love lost between Lucie and I.


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