The Blue Baby – my first car in Germany was a second-hand, turquoise-blue Opel Astra hatchback. It was a 1993 model powered by a 1.2L engine (mind you, powered is probably not the right word). I bought it in 2006 from a kind, old pensioner for EUR 1800, who managed to put only 80,000 km on it since 1993. He left behind a crucifix on a chain of turquoise and red beads. We treated it like a talisman and it is still with me today – or rather with Jumbo.
The Blue Baby had a sun-roof, no AC, and a semi-functional radio – so on our much loved long drives, we carried our laptop (with 100% charged battery) for the music… and it was still fun. Tuli would be forced to play the navigator as we scoured the maps to find our way around during our first road trips. I bugged her a lot, but eventually she turned in to a pro navigator. The most memorable of these trips was to Austria, when Amruta came over to visit us… this picture was taken up in the mountains in Gries im Sellrain, close to Innsbrück. The Blue Baby made a brave ascent to Kühtai (about 2000m above sea level) with the temperature gauge hovering around the 120°C mark.
I guess it was with the Blue Baby that I got my first taste of road trips and of travelling with Tuli. Tuli enjoys driving too. Despite all that has gone up or down with us, travelling together is still the best way we bond together and the Blue Baby was truly a blessing in terms of helping us discover this joy for ourselves. It also gave us the feeling of independence, of travelling at our own pace, when and wherever we wanted. With the Blue Baby, I could finally drop friends home, especially when it was too late in the night or in winter when it was too cold. I felt like I was returning all those kindnesses when other friends picked me up and dropped me home when I was without a car myself.
In June 2010, it was time – the repairs turned more expensive than the value of the car itself. Pragmatism overrode sentimentality. It was time for the Blue Baby’s last drive – from our home in Frankfurt to the Audi showroom in Bad Kreuznach about 55 km away. On a warm summer Saturday, we took a longer country road – the Blue Baby wouldn’t go over 80kmph and would every now and then just lose power and stop, so using the Autobahn would have been dangerous. And the Blue Baby did not let us down on this last stretch. After an encounter with irritated bikers stuck behind us on the one lane country road and a ferry ride across the Rhine, we safely made it to the showroom to hand over the Blue Baby.
I often wonder how strange it is when we form bonds with inanimate objects – maybe it is an overdose of sentimentality or too much of material attachment. But when I handed over that car at the showroom, I had the feeling of handing over an old, faithful horse. For all the memories with Tuli and others attached to it… even today, when we set out on a road trip, my first thought turns to the Blue Baby, it makes me smile and that’s probably the best way to start the journey. Maybe it is not so bad, if we learn to value the material objects around us enough to stop wanting to have the newest, the latest, and the shiniest of all every six months.
So, the Blue Baby is gone, but it is not forgotten.