The other day, I had gone to a chariot shop at Worli. The salesman came up to me, rubbing his hands, and asked: "Could I be of assistance sir?"
"Thank you, I am just looking around," I said, admiring a chariot with two wings and a swan's head jutting out in front.
"All plywood and formica, sir," the salesman said, stroking the swan's head. "We make in cardboard also, but those are for shorter journeys."
There were a lot of other people in the showroom, all buying chariots. "Tell me, who buys these chariots?" I asked.
"Mostly politicians, politicians who want to mix religion with politics," the salesman said. "They are very popular. Mr. Advani's ride to Ayodhya has done more for the sale of chariots than lakhs of rupees of publicity has done for Premier cars or Bajaj scooters."
"I am happy to hear that," I said.
The salesman showed me a truck fixed on a Tata tempo. "This is the exact model of the one Mr. Advani is riding in at this moment. Three people can travel in it at the same time, though normally two dozen do, as you must have seen on your TV. It is built to last."
"It looks sturdy," I said.
The salesman showed me a large bus that had been converted into a chariot. "We call tis the NTR model. It was the first chariot to be made in India between the timeof Lord Rama and B.R. Chopra's Mahabharat, and since it was made by Mr. N.T. Rama Rao for his elections, we call it the NTR model. It has several built-in features, like a hole in the ceilling, so that the owner of the chariot can stand on a chair and put his head out of the hole and address the public."
"Is it a popular chariot?" I asked.
"In the south," the salesman said. "This other chariot was very popular in Haryana when Mr. Devi Lal was the chief minister. It is a modified version of the NTR chariot, you may buy it with or without air-conditioning."
"Tell me, besides politicians, are the chariots popular among ordinary people?" I asked.
"Oh, yes these days people who can afford it, prefer buying chariots to foreign cars. They are so much more ethnic, and as you know, ethnic is chic."
"I woul like to buy a chariot like Mr. L.K. Advani's," I said. "Do you think I should buy it right away or wait for the prices to come down?"
"I do not know," the salesman siad. "If Mr. Advani rides his chariot up to Ayodhya, the prices will go up, but if he is arrested by Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav at the border, then the prices will crash."