Monday, 28 April 2014


“The cut outer requires repair. Not going to Munnar”. The announcement came late. I was all dressed up and ready to go.

In fact I was whirring around as the lorry from the morning. Stopping intermittently for a few minutes and starting again with an announcement 'The red lorry has started again'. I had not named him yet.

So to the lorry we went, my brothers, all elder, and me, with the hope that it would start up some how. It was parked inside the eucalyptus plantation quite  away from our house.

I was the first to reach him. His bonnet was raised, a sure sign of being under repair.

The driver stepped out of the cabin. "It is the cutouter, Could have driven it if it were anything else", he claimed, pointing to the lorry. I looked at him, to me he looked good to go. According to the driver 'the platinum point of the cut outer had burned out' he pointed to a small strip near some coils deep inside the bonnet.

Climbing on the bumper I had a good look at it. I was seeing inside the bonnet of a lorry for the first time. My elder brother, who was knowledgeable about such matters, suggested rubbing the platinum point with the rough side of match box. They had already tried it. Replacing it was the only option according to the driver.

We had planned to go to the cinema that evening in Munnar by the lorry and stay overnight at my uncle's home and return by the same lorry next day evening,

No movie. It was certain so we returned home depressed. I was more unhappy because getting a chance to ride on the lorry now looked very remote to me.

Next day the news of the accident came. The lorry which was repaired early next morning met with an accident on the Munnar bridge. The estate barber who got a lift on the lorry put his head out to wave to a friend while on the bridge, smashed it against the iron girder of the bridge and died instantaneously. Poor Cutouter was taken to the police station for no fault of his.

I learned from my father that the lorry was to be with the police till the case was settled, which may take years and years. We could do nothing about it.

I was lucky to see him again after a few years when I joined the school at Devikulam. The police station was near the school.

The red color of the lorry was barely visible under the thick dust cover it had acquired over years. One of the glass panes of its windshield was broken and the tires were all flat. The skeleton of a lorry near by predicted the fate of poor Cutouter.

I used to visit him whenever I got a chance though I was much afraid of the Police.
It was after one vacation that I found the lorry missing. I looked for him going as near the police station as I dared.  I had not noticed a police man  in mufti behind me. “Are you looking for the GMC”. the policeman said seeing my disappointed face.
The GMC lorry was sold to someone in Tamil Nadu for scrapping, where it would be broken to pieces and sold. he told me. I ran back home in tears. That night I dreamed of the mighty cutouter coming back carrying a huge load of eucalyptus logs.

Years went by.

One evening at a vintage motor car museum in Chennai I saw an old lorry among numerous vintage cars of different makes. The only other vehicle among the exhibits which was not a car, was a fire engine. The fire engine looked so odd that it was difficult to believe such a vehicle did exist. Most of the cars were familiar beauties of my childhood.
But the lorry was the real charmer. Among numerous beauties the lorry looked like a real hero and the fire engine the villain.

Seeing myself glued to the lorry the attendant came to me with a smile. The lorry was the first vehicle acquired by the owner of the collection he said. He saw the vehicle on it's way to the junkyard where it was to be scrapped. He was so attracted by its lovely red color and chunky good looks that he acquired it to start his collection of old vehicles, The collection was later donated to the museum. It was his wish to retain the lorry along with the cars.
At my request the attendant opened the bonnet of the lorry, getting permission from the curator of the Museum
Yes, it was the cut outer, no mistaking.

I remembered the day I had seen him first at the tea estate in Munnar.  He looked the same, the same red bonnet and very prominent panels in place of the usual grill in front. It gave the lorry a strong, menacing but lovable look.

The platinum contact point which made such a vast change in its life,was replaced with a slightly different one which did not fit well to the fastenings provided.

On hearing the story of my relationship with the lorry, the curator suggested a photograph with me at the steering. I still have it, one of my prized possessions.
The moment my childhood dream came true... after more than half a century!.

I long to visit him sometimes, the Cut-outer, but I dont go to Chennai anymore. If you happen to go by the city pay him a visit, he is still as stunning as ever....and am sure he loves visitors.

No comments:

Post a Comment