Can one feel nostalgic about an era that one hasn't lived through? I suppose that it's entirely possible, although sinking into bouts of nostalgia isn't terribly healthy. After all, nostalgia can be a little like quicksand - wade in too deep and it can swallow you alive.
It's this caveat that I need to keep issuing myself, every single time I think of "the good old days". You know, those good old days. The ones that I haven't lived through, but have read so much about. Or watched videos of. Or about which I have been regaled with tales. And even when allowing oneself to give in to these bouts of nostalgia, it's important to remember that while there might have been glory in the days gone by, they are now past. And it's the present and future that counts.
I suppose this is as true of motorsport, especially in the Indian context, as it is of anything else in the world. Of course we must fondly remember the glorious days when Ferraris, Porsches, Fiats, Ambassadors, Yezdis, Royal Enfields, Yamaha TZs and even custom-built racing specials all headed to a T-shaped track in the south of the country for two weekends' worth of action-packed racing. And we certainly must celebrate the fact that in the late seventies and early eighties there was a rally that ran from the dunes of the Thar desert to the icy peaks of the Himalayas. But, while looking back in time, let's not forget to consider the present.
Aditya Patel & team-mate Mitch Gilbert put up a strong fight for the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia title
Let's start with just a few events that transpired over the course of the weekend that has preceded this Monday upon which I am writing this out. As I type this, Aditya Patel is on his way back to India, having fought hard for a championship title in the inaugural season of the Blancpain GT Series Asia. I must emphasise the words "fought hard". This, because going into the weekend Patel and his team-mate Mitch Gilbert had a 15-point deficit to the championship leader. After a perfect weekend of racing in which the duo won both races at the Zheijiang circuit, they cut that lead down to a single point, and finished runners-up. But why is a second-place finish in a championship so very significant? Well, back in 2008, Aditya Patel was racing karts and single-seaters in India. But he'd already made up his mind that he was going to carve a career for himself as a racecar driver. He decided that a good way to do that was to make a switch to GT car racing, and over the course of the last few years, Patel has managed to achieve his goal. Today he's possibly the most successful GT car racer we've produced, as far as international motorsport goes, and his list of achievements includes a class victory at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, which isn't something too many racers can list out on their resume.
Over at Hockenheim in Germany this weekend, young Jehan Daruvala was tackling the last three races of the 2017 FIA Formula 3 European Championship. And while the title might have gone to his Carlin team-mate Lando Norris, Jehan did finish his season a creditable sixth. He also managed a second-place finish in the rookie championship, in a year that saw him become the first Indian since Narain Karthikeyan to claim a victory (Norisring earlier this year) at a major Formula 3 event. Daruvala's performance has impressed many this season, and even though he's keeping mum about his plans for the future, a step up to Formula 2 in 2018 might be in the offing, en route his goal of becoming the third Indian driver to make it to Formula 1.
Over in Asia, two Indian racers by the name of Rehana Reya and Kalyani Potekar took a third-place finish at the Taiwan round of the Asia Cup of Road Racing held at the Penbay Circuit. This came close on the heels of another accomplishment by a female racer in the world of Indian motorsport Aishwarya Pissay completed the Raid de Himalaya fourth in class on a factory-supported TVS Apache RTR 200.
On the domestic front, the final race of the 2017 Indian National Karting Championship concluded, with championship winners crowned in all classes. Rayo Racing's Aaroh Ravindra claimed the Senior class title, while M Sport's Yash Aradhya won the Junior class title, and Peregrine Racing's Arjun Rajiv won the Micro Max championship. Aaroh, Yash, and Ruhaan Alva (who was runner-up in the Micro Max category) will represent India in the World Rotax Finals in Portimao early in November.
All in all, for one weekend, that's a fair number of Indians in the world of motorsport.
See, every year, for the April issue of OVERDRIVE, I compile a list of Indians racing around the world. Each year that list has grown progressively longer, and I've had to ask for more pages to accommodate the growing number of international racers that our country is producing. At no other time in the history of Indian motorsport, have we had so many racers competing in international motorsport events. And I daresay, at no other time in the history of Indian motorsport, have we had as many championships held on the domestic front. Of course, there are issues that need to be sorted out, there is sponsorship that is still missing, there are racetracks to be built, and a perfectly good Formula 1 circuit that ought to be attracting more events. But that's just one side of the story. Let's not forget that we've reached a stage where youngsters have begun to make motorsport (competing in it or organising it) a viable career option. As far as I'm concerned that is progress in itself.
Which brings me to this. Progress is a funny sort of thing. It can't be observed if one is too close, but stand back, and you might just be able to see patterns, changes and growth. So, even while acknowledging what a powerful drug nostalgia is, let's not be bullied by it. Let's instead champion progress. It's simply the only way forward.