Mahindra Thar is the weapon of choice for a frontline Covid warrior
Doctor Roshan Shetty is a proper car enthusiast. In his garage, alongside a Porsche 911 GT3 and the only BMW M4 Competition in India, is a Mahindra Thar. The Mahindra Thar is his go-to workhorse as he battles on the frontlines in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. In our conversation with him, he recalls how the Mahindra Thar helped him commute to the hospital through Mumbai's flooded roads when cyclone Tauktae hit the west coast in May. He also speaks about the other benefits of owning a Mahindra Thar, including how he can drive it anywhere without bother, and the road trips and adventures he has had with the Thar!
Doctor Roshan Shetty is a radiologist. And like most doctors he is a car enthusiast, except he takes his passion very, very seriously. Showing up in a Porsche 911 GT3 leaves a hell of an impression, and that’s exactly what Doc did the first time we met him. It’s not hard to see why we got along either. He, like all of us here at evo India, is a proper, proper enthusiast. And while the GT3 may be the crown jewel of his garage, it isn’t the only bit of desirable metal he owns. He also owns the only M4 Competition in the country, a Jaguar XE, just recently sold his Macan Turbo, and now has added the new Mahindra Thar to the fleet. He isn’t the type of enthusiast who is one-dimensional in his passions — yes, he has a passion for speed which he satiates with his GT3 and M4. But he also has a passion for travelling and road trips.
Doc doesn’t mince words. “Most of my time, I’m packed in a dark room. I’m seeing patients and illnesses. My work doesn’t provide me with the space to liberate my mind, and neither does the congested city of Mumbai. My wife and I, we don’t have kids and we love adventure, driving and feeling free. Road trips have given us that feeling of liberation. This is why we seek out road trips. It is an expression of our freedom.”
Ask him where his passion for road trips stems from and he holds us guilty! “My love for road trips originated thanks to car magazines. I used to read and scan every road destination that you people were lucky enough to endeavour in.” And as soon as he could get out and explore, he did, never letting something as inconsequential as not having a car hold him back. Forget rentals, he’s admitted to sliding cabbies a bit of cash to relinquish the wheel to him in the Himalayas, though they did occasionally refuse to leave the car with him and he ended up driving around with them in the back seat. Over the years he has driven some of the most beautiful roads in India and the world. And that is exactly why he got himself the Thar. To fuel that passion he has for road trips!
The first car of his own that he actually drove across the length and breadth of the country was his Chevrolet Forester. He fondly recalls the story of how he acquired it. At the time, it cost a princely Rs 18 lakh off the shelf. It was a little above his pay grade but that didn’t stop him from calling up the salesman every single day for six months asking if there was a discount available on the car. And when the discount was eventually available, he put down the money for it despite it costing him half his salary every month. Steep maybe but that Forester is still going strong with his brother-in-law and he has plenty of memories tied to it.
“The Forester was the first adventure car which we could afford and we’ve driven around 35,000- 40,000 kilometres in this car to the remotest areas of India, including to the highest motorable road, highest motorable villages such as Kibber in the Spiti Valley, the Hindustan-Tibet road to Tabo Kaza, Ladakh and Leh, Zanskar which practically had no roads,” he says, looking at the AWD estate endearingly. The Forester put him in ‘a comfort zone’ as he road-tripped around the country. He didn’t have to worry about a thing. And that is exactly what he wanted to replicate in his latest SUV purchase.
He did go down the road many enthusiasts do and bought himself a few luxury SUVs first. But they simply didn’t cut it with what Roshan wanted from his SUVs. “You get wheel speed sensor errors, you get ABS errors because of dust, and fuel conditions in India are so terrible that when you really want to drive to the remotest areas, all sorts of problems crop up.” His experiences with imported SUVs only reinforced the fact that you need a truly Indian SUV for harsh Indian conditions. Which is why as soon as bookings for the Mahindra Thar opened, he got in queue.
This new Thar isn’t Roshan’s first experience with Mahindra. After the Forester left his garage, he didn’t have a capable SUV to replace it with but had no intention of slowing down his plans to travel. “I used to always fall back on rental Scorpios because they were extremely reliable, unbreakable and in the remotest areas — serviceable. You see, the far flung border regions have army presence and should a Mahindra car stall, they’ll send you an automobile engineer from their group and repair it in 15 minutes. Even parts are available in the remotest local workshops. So Mahindra SUVs have always given me comfort and the Scorpio has always been my go-to car for these drives.”
While the Scorpio is a mighty capable machine, Doc is a sucker for the styling of the Thar. He loves the iconic look that draws inspiration from the 4x4s Mahindra has produced throughout its history. So when he got wind of the new Thar — the fact that it would drive with the composure of a Scorpio, while still look unmistakably like a Thar — he was sold.
In the few months that Doc has had his Thar, he’s already taken it to the Himalayas. But, his approach to road trips has changed since Covid-19 struck. “We are doctors and we have to treat Covid patients. We cannot disappear for a very long trip, so what I have been doing nowadays is sending the Thar by flatbed to an airport close by.” Then he flies in, gets behind the ’wheel of his Thar and gets exploring. His recent trip was to Uttarkashi and the new Char Dham road. He’s also trucked the Thar down to Goa and explored the unmolested side of the state that stays away from the tourists’ radar — the forests in the Western ghats.
“The freedom that the Thar inspires is not just on road trips, but inside the city too,” he says rather profoundly. I ask him what he means. “Once a week, at least, I take the Thar to work from Bandra to Juhu. In our sports cars or posh SUVs, we’re always driving defensively. We’re always worried somebody is going to scratch your car. But in the Thar we’re extremely free. We can drive how we want,” he says, implying that he doesn’t worry as much about traffic getting uncomfortably close to the car. Or getting close at all. “People are scared of you,” he laughs. On a more serious note though, having the Thar was a godsend when cyclone Tauktae hit Mumbai in May. It meant he could get to work even when the roads were flooded and patients could get the all-important CT scans done at his Pinnacle Imaging Centre.
Off-roading isn’t something Doc has too much experience of and so we invited him to join us on a Sunday at the Q Gardens farm on the outskirts of Mumbai to engage four-wheel-drive! Once you turn off the Mumbai-Nashik highway at Shahpur the roads are fantastic (he’s going to drive his GT3 here next weekend) and then at the farm he stuck the Thar in 4-Low for the first time to tackle the trails. With the editor playing the unfamiliar role of a spotter Roshan did manage to get stuck a couple of times but he always managed to pull himself out as well. After some time behind the ’wheel he said, “This is my first time off-roading, but it makes me feel like I’ve been off-roading all my life! The only thing I had to do was put it in low range and the car did the rest. It’s quite thrilling, much like driving sports cars at high speeds.”
Doc has another road trip for the Thar already in the works. “Next month, we’ve planned to send the Thar from Mumbai to either Chandigarh or Leh. Our main destination is Padum in the Zanskar region and we’re trying to use the new road — which is only partially built but the Thar should be able to do it.” This ability to just pack up and leave is what he loves about the Thar. He doesn’t have to sweat the little things. He knows the Thar will handle the worst of what the Himalayas will throw at it. “Long road trips are supposed to give you freedom and you do not want your peace of mind to be disturbed. I’m very confident that the Thar will give me a much more liberating experience on my road trips.”
Well Doc, you and your medical and paramedical staff have been working incredibly hard for our community since the pandemic hit last year. If anything, you definitely deserve that holiday!