I have never seen anything like it.
As Tata Motors unveiled its new Nano today at the 9th Auto Expo in New Delhi, I could not believe there were hundreds of cameramen and photographers pushing past security and storming the stage. I captured some of it on film, paused for a moment, turned to the Indian man next to me, and in a non-English, non-Hindi universal shrug of the shoulders, we both joined in.
The next thing I knew, I was being carried by a wave of human curiosity, past the sunny yellow car, then towards the white one at the center. I suddenly realized I was in danger of being trampled, and quickly climbed over a small fence for protection. But security forced me back into the fray.
As I knelt to get a better angle with my camera, I glimpsed the throng of charging men to my left, and just as I thought I was finished, a man yelled something, raised his arms, and somehow the crowd stopped short of me.
My camera was slightly damaged, but I got some great footage. I started laughing to myself, and at the crazy scene of angry and excited journalists all eager to see the miniature miracle. The car will sell for the equivalent of $2,500.
Tata Motors CEO Ratan Tata said, at the unveiling, that now, people from all over India should be able to afford a car.
"I observed families riding on two-wheelers — the father driving the scooter, his young kid standing in front of him, his wife seated behind him, holding a little baby. It led me to wonder whether one could conceive of a safe, affordable, all-weather form of transport for such a family," Tata said. "Tata Motors' engineers and designers gave their all for about four years to realize this goal.
"We are happy to present the 'people's car' to India, and we hope it brings the joy, pride and utility of owning a car to many families who need personal mobility," he said.
And today, those very people from rural and urban areas came to see the "people's car," a car that is within their financial reach.
There is controversy surrounding the Nano, including many serious concerns about how putting more cars on India's roads will affect the country's already polluted air and environment, whether it will result in an increase in oil prices, and much more. But it is difficult to dismiss the appeal of it when you speak with some of the people clamoring to own one.
I met a family of four who had traveled six hours by train to buy a Nano. But when the Guptas arrived with four credit cards in hand, they learned they will have to wait six months for the silver model, that mother Madhu Gupta wants, to become available.
Even with that, though, the Guptas' enthusiasm did not wane. As soft-spoken 10-year-old Rahul explained, "We want to buy it for our family to enjoy trips out of the city."
Who can argue with that?