My brother Ananda who is based in California had sent me this e-mail recently. It reminded me of my own struggle to own a brand new car some day. It was not easy for those of us who opted to remain in our country of birth, particularly during those days of austerity, barriers and restrictions. I have described here, the history of that epic battle.
02:47 (6 hours ago)
When I bought my first car in June 1968 (An Austin A 35 Reg. No. 2 Sri 185) as a newly graduated doctor, it was about 12 years old. But it looked much older and behaved like one. Today, a 12 year old would be much better looking and better behaved. My modest Mitsubishi Lancer Sedan is already 7 years old, but it looks almost new (having done only 50,000 km).
In the days when the import of brand new cars was prohibited, my second car - a Ford Prefect (EN 2359) was 15 years old at the time of purchase in 1969. Then came the Volkswagen Beetle (EN 4142) which was 21 years old (bought in 1975). The reconditioned bronze coloured Lancer 1200 (12 Sri 6548) was 5 years old (bought in 1983) when I imported it through Uni - Walkers. After nearly two decades with used cars, I was finally able to own my first brand new car which was a Nissan Sunny (12 Sri 5789) when I imported it through Associated Motorways following the usual formalities such as opening a Letter of Credit etc. It was bought in 1985 and I had to wait for two months for it to be delivered (bought for Rs 154,000 and sold for Rs 325,000 in 1995). Incidentally, my friend Senior Neurologist Dr. J.B. Pieris also ordered a Nissan Sunny which too came in the same shipment and had the Reg. No. 13 Sri 5790. Then I bought a Maruti Esteem (also brand new 19 Sri) for Rs 875,000 in 1995 and sold it for Rs 675,000 in 1997 when we "emigrated" to the US. I was able to walk in to the AMW showrooms in Kollupitiya and buy it paying "spot cash". In 2009, I bought my present car for which I paid Rs 3,995,000! Times had certainly changed by that time. There was a choice of brand new cars in Colombo showrooms. Visiting the showrooms to shop around was part of the thrill.
I have not included here, the used Peugeot 504 that I imported from the French Embassy in Hong Kong on my return from the US in 1975 and the cars that I owned in the US from 1997 to 2008. I used the 504 only for a brief two month period and sold it right away as it had a ready market. Interestingly, I spent only a mere Rs 16,000 to import the car and sold it for Rs 108,000. Around 1976, I was building my first house in Kirillapone and I needed the money. It was better to have a roof over one's head than to run around with a lakh on wheels! In fact, most government servants who went abroad on scholarships and dutifully returned, sold the cars that they were able to import.
After almost a half century, this is what I now use to get about in this land like no other.