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MY AUTOLIFE: BHOLA B THAPA

Just seems like yesterday we were geeking out over the Jaguars coming to Nepal. We would consider it one of the most exciting of recent times when it comes to the auto industry of Nepal. Mr. Bhola Bikram Thapa, President at President Group of Companies, was one of the few who hold the keys to these Jags in Nepal. A man passionate about his cars and for driving fast, we talked about his love for automobiles and the crazy times he’s had in them.

TELL US WHAT’S PARKED IN YOUR GARAGE AT THE MOMENT?

Because of what I do (President of President Groups of Companies) I have a lot of cars around which I use for my personal as well as professional use. At the moment, I have a Skoda Laura parked in my garage which I use most frequently for my daily use. And I also have the Jaguar which I drive around in to attend professional events and meetings. I would have loved to take it out more often but looking at the condition of the roads in Kathmandu even taking it out becomes a hassle. But otherwise we also have more cars like the land rover ,the land cruiser to name a few.

WHAT DO YOU PREFER MORE? SEDANS OR SUVS?

I prefer sedans because it is more comfortable compared to SUVs but if I have to go on long rides I would opt for SUVs. Having said that, my leniency towards sedans is directly related to the conditions of the roads I will be traveling on. Of late it has been terribly difficult to root for sedans thanks to our roads. Then again, SUVs have trouble maneuvering in traffic and tight spaces.

HOW DID YOU FIRST LEARN TO RIDE/ DRIVE AND WHICH IS THE FIRST CAR/ BIKE YOU HAD A GO ON?

From when I was a young boy I was interested in riding or driving vehicles and I remember my brother had one of those Russian scooters when we were growing up. So, that scooter was the first vehicle I tried on the roads. I learned without anyone’s help because back then that was how everyone usually learned.

IS THERE A DRIVER BEHIND THE WHEELS OF YOUR CAR OR IS IT YOU WHO TAKES CHARGE?

I rarely drive myself. But don’t get me wrong, I love driving. I always have loved it but I want to get some pleasure out of driving. Every time I sit behind the wheels I end up in a bad mood thanks to all the traffic and the roads and the pedestrians who have no regards for traffic rules. But I do drive on Saturdays when I take my wife out somewhere or if I go on long drives.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAVE BEEN THE PROS AND CONS OF OWNING AN EXOTIC SET OF WHEELS IN NEPAL?

Well, the only positive thing is that you have a car and you have the comfort of going to places in it. But even then, driving in Nepal is a big hassle. However, when I go to my farm I drive my Land Rover and that is always a fun driving experience. That is rare nowadays; driving isn’t as fun as it used to be. For instance, I used to reach my farm which is in Nawalparasi in about 3 hours but now it takes about 4 to 5 hours that too if I leave very early in the morning. If I leave in the afternoon it takes at least 6 hours or more to reach there.

TILL DATE, ON WHICH CAR HAVE YOU HAD THE BEST EVER RIDING/DRIVING EXPERIENCE?

The best I have ever driven was a convertible car which I wanted to buy very badly. It was a red convertible car which I think was a Peugeot that I drove for 2 days. I really liked the car but when you lifted the hood all the dust came inside the car. My wife was not agreeing to buy it because of that reason which I think was reasonable. It was about 5 years ago. It was a very beautiful car. I always had an eye for convertibles.

I love buying new cars because I don’t like to drive any car over 5 years, mainly because of the road conditions. I go for SUV now, I would have preferred a sedan but I have to choose an SUV now for that reason. And since the parking is so cramped there is a huge possibility of getting your car scratched. So, the worth of an exotic car gets diminished because of the infrastructure here in Nepal. I used to have a BMW before I bought the Jaguar. I had to sell the BMW since I have a diplomatic number plate and if someone came over from abroad it was too small for them.

ONE WICKED OR CRAZY THING THAT YOU HAVE DONE ON WHEELS?

There are a few to choose from, not all intentional though. Like this one time, when I was driving an old Mercedes, it was raining, I had to slam on the brakes, which caused the car to spin 360degrees, and I almost hit the footpath. It was an accident to be honest and I didn’t do it intentionally. Fortunately no one was hurt and I had the liberty of feeling pretty badass afterwards.

In my younger days, I have done things I am not quite proud of. I used to have a key that could start any vehicle and one time a car was stuck in a ditch and he left that there overnight. The next morning I got up and started the car with my keys and managed to get it out. I was ecstatic about it, but one thing led to another and I ended up toppling the car over. No one was badly hurt but I had to shift into a clandestine lifestyle for 3 days because my father was furious. It could have been so much worse and I’d never put myself in that sort of position again.

IS THERE AN ULTIMATE DREAM CAR THAT YOU’D LIKE TO HAVE PARKED IN YOUR GARAGE?

My ultimate dream car would be a two-seater convertible BMW. But that is going to be really difficult because of the tax duties on vehicles in Nepal. No one can choose to buy a car on a whim and also my age wouldn’t allow it, more than luxury I prefer comfort these days.

IF YOU COULD WISH FOR ONE AUTOMOBILE MARQUEE TO HAVE A SHOWROOM HERE IN NEPAL, NOT YET PRESENT, WHICH WOULD IT BE?

There are new types of brands and new models coming up very often but I would love if BMW came into Nepal. Soon.

WHERE DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST DESTINATION TO DRIVE/RIDE TO IN NEPAL?

Well, some of the highways are pretty nice in Nepal but there are lots of twists and turns. I would prefer a long stretch of straight roads because I like driving fast but there is no destination as such.

IF YOU WERE GIVEN COMPLETE CONTROL OF THE COUNTRY, WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU BRING ABOUT IN THE AUTOMOTIVE SCENE OF NEPAL?

In our country everything is considered a luxury because of the high tax rates. I agree that one time it was a luxury in the past but now it is a necessity. I think the government should consider that and make a reasonable tax amount in the vehicles. Yes, in actual luxurious cars like a Jaguar the taxation is okay but looking at the whole scenario I think cars should be taken as a necessity rather than a luxury.

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