A vehicle is linked to all key turning points in the life of Malayalam actor Sijoy Varghese. A road safety goodwill ambassador, Sijoy has a clear idea of vehicles, driving etiquettes and vehicle maintenance. "For me, vehicles are not meant for image building or show off. Instead, they are valued for their utility; it has to be so. I use a scooter for neighbourhood store hopping, and in the town, I prefer my Nano or wife's i10 because of traffic jams and parking problems," he says.
The first vehicle that I bought was a second-hand Yamaha RX100 when I was 18. After I started working, I had a Hero Honda. My first car is itself a big story.
The car story
It was not just a story; the car has some history attached to it. It was an imported second-hand Toyota Corona. It belonged to a Japanese scientist who was in India in connection with an Indo-Japanese project. He sold it to Popular Automobiles. Then, the late chief minister K Karunakaran became the owner of the car. Later, it changed hands first to actor Manoj K Jayan and then to a friend named Raju, who was running an advertising agency. I was just 24 then. I got an opportunity to do an ad for Star Homes for Raju. After the work, Raju asked me, 'You can choose either a payment or this car'. I told him I can make money later. That car could easily fetch Rs 1.5 lakh then. My first accident was also in the car."
“I was learning driving in the car and it grazed a woman near Thammanam. Since the bonnet of the Corona was low, the woman ended up in a seating position on the bonnet. She latched on to the wiper to prevent from falling over and the car ran some 50 meters more before it came to a complete stop. People came running to the spot. But the woman climbed down from the bonnet and was pretty cool. ‘I am ok. Nothing has happened to me, you can go,’ she told me once I came out of the car trembling. My wedding too has a link to the vehicle.”
The wedding story
"Once, the distributor cap of the Corona got damaged. Those days, all imported cars were repaired at Ganapthy workshop in Panampilly Nagar. Owners seek help of the workshop owner, Rappayi chettan, to import required spare parts from overseas. I patiently waited for the spare parts to arrive from Japan. Months went by but they didn't arrive. That's when I came to know that Rappayi chettan had died. But seven years after his death Rappayi chettan cleared his debt; I married his daughter. My wife pulls my leg even now saying that instead of the spare parts I got his daughter, a car and money. Later, my brother-in-law told me that mine was the only work that was not completed by Rappayi chettan."
I and my wife are on the taller side. I thought an SUV would suit us better and the car I bought after the Corona was a second-hand Tata Sierra. A Tata Safari came later; it was the first brand new vehicle that I bought. For 10 years from 2001 I was in Dubai, where I had a Prado and then a Jaguar, one of the most liked ones. After returning in 2011, a Toyota Fortuner and then a Prado became my drives.
I picked up the right driving etiquettes from Dubai. There one should consider getting a licence as an award for good driving. In Dubai, everybody follows rules when he or she enters a junction or while driving in a lane.
Most of the vehicles that I have bought are family cars. First preference is a comfortable journey with family including wife Tessy, and children Aditya, Amy, Annie and Anthony. The latest vehicle I bought is a Kia Carnival Limousine; one can even sleep in it during long journeys.
Nobody should die in road accidents. I suffered such a misfortune at 16. I lost my mother in a road accident, when a bus collided with our Ambassador near Changampuzha park. My dad suffered serious injuries and was paralysed on one side of the body. After my mother's death, I developed the habit of starting the vehicle with a prayer and driving properly. I was made the road safety goodwill ambassador by janamaithri police after my role in the film Bangalore Days as a racing coach. I have conducted awareness sessions at nearly a 100 campuses.