The first Maruti 800 car which was symbolically handed to a Delhi couple by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1983 is lying in a rusted state at its owners' residence for more than a year now.
It was almost 32 years ago that Harpal Singh won the allotment for the car in a lucky draw; the keys to the car were handed to him by Indira Gandhi on 14 December, 1983. Singh received the keys in the presence of Rajiv Gandhi, who was then working with Indian Airlines in New Delhi, where Singh was employed.
"He (Rajiv Gandhi) knew my father-in-law as they both worked in Indian Airlines. The moment it was announced through the lottery that he will get the first car, Rajivji jumped with excitement and hugged him," said Singh's elder son-in-law Tejinder Ahluwalia, recalling that nostalgic moment.
Though it gave its owner a celebrity status in Delhi during the car's heydays, it is today languishing in the couple's Green Park's residence in Delhi, because Singh and his wife Gulshanbeer Kaur died a few years ago.
Singh passed away in 2010 and his wife Kaur died two years later. After their death, the family members drove the car for about a couple of years but only within the locality, according to Hindustan Times report.
"Even after mom's death, the family members used to go to the house to start the car and take a short drive in the inner colony lane, but for the past one-and-half years it has not been used at all," Singh's elder son-in-law Tejinder Ahluwalia said.
Singh's other younger son-in-law Amardeep Walia said that the car is in fully functional condition but will become defunct if it lies unused for long. He said that Maruti must take it back and preserve it with immense care, considering its significance.
"The car is still not in a very bad condition, it needs some cosmetic repair and it will start running. But if it is kept idle it might become defunct, its makers should save this car as it is not just any other vehicle but a symbol that how the first car made by them stood the test of the time," Walia said.
Maruti Suzuki had borrowed the car from Singh in 2008 to celebrate the completion of 25 years Maruti Suzuki, but did not show any interest thereafter, despite the family's request.
"After that it has shown no interest towards its first baby. We even wrote letters around a couple of years back to the company to do something to save this piece of history but they have not shown any interest," Ahluwalia said.
Maruti's spokesperson has said that the company is willing to talk to the family if they want to sell back to them.
"It is indeed very special, as it was our first customer car. Mr. Harpal Singh had maintained it with great care. If the family now wants us to buy it back, we are open to discuss with them," the spokesperson said.