An Eye Opener: The Tata Steel Vintage & Classic Car & Bike Rally, Jamshedpur—Part 2
Images: Deepanjan Sarkar & Tata Steel
After a tiring four hours of judging the entries in the blazing sun, it was time for me to leave the venue for the guest house in my Mercedes Ponton. Easier said than done. You see, the grounds had been thrown open to the public at 5 PM. Within half an hour, the place was teeming, mostly with youngsters who took to social media to cover the vehicles.
It was great to be amidst such a throng of people who genuinely seemed to be interested in historic vehicles. Here was a small town in Jharkhand where the public attended an event in larger numbers than in bigger cities! Thanks to the sheer manpower of Tata Steel, my car was safely escorted out of the grounds and into the guest house.
It was time for me to take a breather and reflect on the scores that I had assigned before getting ready for the participants dinner hosted by the event organiser. In the meantime, I was informed that four fellow classic car owners from Calcutta had driven down that afternoon to attend the rally as spectators and they were present on the grounds during judging!
I can only surmise that I missed meeting them because I was too engrossed in the judging. But this was delightful news and I coaxed them to accompany me for dinner which proved to be a great opportunity to interact with the participants in a more informal setting.
The dinner party was hosted by Mr. Chanakya Chaudhary, Vice President - Corporate Services, Tata Steel, at the United Club. As a jury member from out of town, I felt it was important to pass on a message of friendship from Calcutta to Jamshedpur and we all thanked both Tata Steel and the participants for making us feel so very welcome in their beautiful city. We made a commitment that night; next year, we would have a greater number of participants from Calcutta.
It was the 26th of February, Sunday: Rally day in Jamshedpur. Vehicles had lined up on the grounds as early as 7 AM, though I drove in leisurely at around 8 AM (being in the jury has its perks). It was a proud moment for me when the big boss of Tata Steel and guest of honour, Mr. T.V. Narendran (Global CEO & MD of Tata Steel) came up to my Mercedes and looked at the car in detail, following up with some words of appreciation.
By 8.30 AM, the rally had started and we Calcuttans had made sure that there was one person from Jamshedpur to accompany us in each of our cars along the 15 km route, lest we get lost. At least that was the plan. Somehow I missed doing this and much to my horror, I realised a little too late that all four of us in my car were from Calcutta without the foggiest notion of Jamshedpur roads. My trepidation quickly disappeared for as we exited the stadium, a two-wheeler pilot escort was waiting for us!
This immediately put me at ease and I started to enjoy the drive, what with my car’s full length sliding roof open in the pleasant morning, passing under tree-lined avenues. The gently twisting roads, the drive through the beautiful Sir Dorabji Tata Park, the complete lack of public traffic (Tata Steel had ensured that police had closed all public traffic along the rally route) and the large number of cheering enthusiasts of all ages along the rally route, would be etched in my memory for a long time to come. All it took was one beep of the horn to get the crowds to clap and cheer; it was all very special.
This kind of excitement amongst the public during similar rallies had died down in Calcutta a long time ago.
After a surreal 15 km drive, we were back at the United Club for the prize distribution. Once the final tabulation of scores was over, a 1951 BSA ZB was declared the Overall Champion in the motorcycle category. In the car category, the 1955 MG Magnette was adjudged the Overall Champion (I had nothing to with its judging!), narrowly beating the Triumph Spitfire due to the better road performance of the former while the Mahindra FC 150 bagged top honours in the off-roader category. A 1962 Fantabulous scooter won in the scooter category. Tata Steel, ever the gracious host, followed up the prize distribution ceremony with a sumptuous brunch for participants.
Right after the brunch, I, along with the four other Calcutta car owners, drove our cars through the city to the petrol station on the outskirts of Jamshedpur where our captive transport truck was parked. I realised that beyond the Tata Steel controlled area, the town was not quite as nice as the part of the town we were staying in.
It took us a good two hours to load up the five cars back into the truck, after which we headed back to town to spend the rest of the day at our leisure.
The following day, it was time to say bye to Jamshedpur.
I was glad I got this opportunity. Being part of a jury can be a rewarding experience, especially if you have like-minded colleagues. Several participants took my contact number for car-related advice and indeed they have kept in touch, indicating a genuine desire on their part to improve their vehicles.
Jamshedpur really is a lovely town with some nice cars and a bunch of great two-wheelers. Participants from Ramgarh, Chaibasa, Ranchi, Nayagarh, Keonjhar and Calcutta made this event unique in its own way.
With the complete backing of Tata Steel, the Jamshedpur Rally has every ingredient for becoming the best professionally run historic vehicle event in eastern India.
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