Kozhikode: A couple of days ago Kerala Government announced a reward of Rs 2 crore for India's formidable hockey player P R Sreejesh who brought an Olympic medal to Kerala after 49 years. His exploits in the Tokyo Olympics helped India's hockey team to secure the bronze medal.
Earlier too, governments in Kerala had rewarded outstanding sports personalities. One that stands out is the 'Standard 2000' car gifted to legendary Indian track and field athlete P T Usha 35 years ago by the government headed by veteran Congress leader K Karunakaran.
Usha had notched up four gold medals and one silver medal at the Seoul Asian Games in 1986. Two years prior to that, Usha had missed out on an Olympic medal by one-hundredth of a second at Los Angeles.
Usha, who emerged as a top Asian athlete by then, was gifted the best car available those days. Standard 2000 was the synonym for premium cars in India back then. It was also the most expensive India-made car.
Usha was gifted the car during an event held in Thiruvananthapuram. It was also Usha's first vehicle.
A driver, named Mani, who was entrusted with the job by the government, drove the car from the state capital to Usha's home at Payyoli in Kozhikode district that day. Usha's parents were also part of that journey along with her. Several people were waiting to see the car at various places, reminisced Usha.
Usha learned driving after that. Until she mastered the skill, driver Mani drove the car. Usha travelled in this car to various events. At all places, people crowded around to see the sports star and also her luxury car. Usha even went for driving test in that car and she succeeded in the very first attempt.
Usha said that she has several memories associated with that car, and therefore, it was also her favourite vehicle. Even now, Usha shares memories about that car on her social media platforms.
Why Standard 2000 was a supercar
Standard 2000 was the first car that introduced features such as power steering, power window, central locking system, and seat belt in the Indian market.
Standard 2000 was the Indian version of the Rover SD1 car in Britain.
The price of the Standard 2000 car at that time was Rs 2.25 lakh. Notably, the hugely popular Contessa car, manufactured by the Hindustan Motors, was priced only at Rs 84,000 then.
The Contessa had 49hp of power, while the Standard had 75hp.
The car, powered by a 2-litre engine, was launched in India in 1985. But the car sales came to a halt in 1988 itself. The main issue was fuel efficiency. Though the company had promised a mileage of 12km per litre, the consumers got a mileage of less than 5km per litre. After the car was also panned for not exhibiting the quality expected from the price, the Standard company withdrew the car from the Indian market in three years.
Though she really liked her car, Usha's Standard 2000 also had all the afore-mentioned issues.
The petrol price was less than Rs 8 per litre during those days, but it was a big sum then. After some years, she replaced the petrol engine with a diesel engine and attained a slight increase in mileage.
The car also had recurring maintenance issues. It became even difficult to drive the car from Usha's house at Payyoli to Kannur. One of the recurring problems was that the fan belt kept on breaking. After maintenance became a hassle, she sold the car in 1994 to a Kozhikode native.
Today, Usha and her family have no information about the car. Usha later purchased a Maruti 800. That car was also part of Usha's journeys for a long time.
Though she purchased other new cars later, Usha still cherishes the memories of the super car that had been part of her golden phase.
Usha is often referred to as the Golden Girl and the "Queen of Indian track and field".