Last night, I was talking to some of the Ford Motor Company executives, presently in town for their joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra. Their headquarters are in Detroit, and exchanging pleasantries with them, which is all that you can do at a large and celebratary dinner, took me back to my visit tot eh motor city of the world.
I was on one of those US state department junkets, 32 journalists from the developing countries, most of the names picked from a hat. From New York, half the group was taken to Chicago, the other half to Detroit. On hindsight, I was glad I was in the Detrioit half.
The minute we landed at Detroit airport I knew I was in the motor city. Displayed in the terminal building, on red carpets and behind red ropes, were the lates models of some of the biggest and fanciest American cars. The car that took us into town was a Cadillac, strechhed from here to eternity. I sat on one of the jump-seats, facing a journalist from Mainland China, somewhat embarrassed at riding in the most capitalists of capitalistic automobiles. Between us was a table, and next to us a cabinet, which when opened turned out to be a bar.
We stayed in the centre of the town, in a large and cavernous hotel called The Book Cadillac. It was something like The Great Eastern in Calcutta, only several times tallr, and large enught to accommodate an automobile show on its eighth floor. From where and how the cars were brought to the eighth floor, I never found out.
That night, I was hosted by a family that resided some 80 kms. outside the town. The lady of the house drove up to Detroit to take me to her residence, and, later in the night, drove me back to the hotel, doing the 80 kms. several times with less hassle than Churchgate to Narayan Dabholkar Road on a Sunday.
There were other evidence of a motor city. A lady who gave us a lecture, ended it ten minutes early, excusing herself. That morning, her car had had an accident, and since she was motorless, she had to buy a new one on her way home. We said we understood her problem and did not mind if she cut short her talk.
The area around Book Cadillac was most interesting. There were a couple of antique trams that traveled up and down the street. They were there probably before the first Model-T was manufactured in Detroit. It is amazing what efforts cities put in to preserve a piece of the past. In Bombay we do not care to preserve even the name of the city.
The hotel itself stood on what was described as the Michigan Passage, a passage once used by the American Indians. The Detroit Free Press building stood opposite us, and down the road was the Hudson. Tunnels ran under the Hudson, linking America to Canada.