For many, especially the neo-liberated Indian in small town India, buying a car is a dream come true, the process of acquiring it is a dream process come true and car salesmen are dream merchants. Whatever people might say, I believe that globalization and capitalism have liberated us. It it were not for it, you wouldn't be reading this, I wouldn't be writing this, all those graduates (B.Tech victims) wouldn't be having all those jobs and earning enough to pay EMIs for the cars made by companies which wouldn't be here anyway. From non-existent in the 1980s to a multi-billion industry today, the automobile industry has spawned many sub-industries within itself. There are banks, financial institutions, dealers, agents, marketers, salesmen, second had procurers, sellers, spare parts, mechanics, tuners, fitters, accessorizers, accident service experts, insurers and of course, the great motor vehicles department subsystem (RTO). All these together have fine tuned the entire process into fine clockwork precision. Hence, acquiring a car is one of the easiest processes possible today, much like taking a new mobile SIM, only much costlier. The entire process reeks of middle-classism.
Realizing the Car-Dream Process
There is only one thing you need to buy a car. No no, it is not a Driving License or the knowledge on how to drive, but just enough moolah. Then all you have to do is decide is which car to buy and go on clicking "Next" till the product is delivered, plastic covering and all. Once the threshold of "sufficient levels of monthly-money-earning" has reached, the process of car-owning starts with paying attention to all those advertisements and song-and-dance routines tailor-made to tap into our inherent inferiority complexes and to make us believe that by buying their product we are better than the others and we actually "inherit" a superior lifestyle. They show happy families of "fair and lovely" white Indian people having the time of their lives driving around in 1 liter hatchbacks along incredibly clean, wide, potholeless roads in Utopically sanitized cities or unbelievably dazzling countrysides, cool dudes picking up countless chicks in their cramped 800 cc outings and Bollywood Superstars driving hatchbacks they wouldn't be caught dead in real life. Once enamored by these "bordering-on-fraud" creation, it is time to make the decision: Which one?Image Courtesy: Faconnable
Decision making is easy and fast enough, since the only factor looked at is usually the price and badge. Since most of car-buyers are those moving from no car to new car, the bottom entry segment is the most crowded. And as expected, the choice will be made from between one of the four bare-bones hatches available, and carefully weighing the options of how shiny it will look from the outside, what the neighbors have, "kitni deti hai", what all will come free with it, and of course, the price tag. It does not matter if the interiors are made of recycled eggshells or if it is as safe as a pack of cards during an earthquake. As said before, the dream of owning a car is of owning a car, anything that has four wheels and an engine covered by metal sheets. We are to go a long way to learn to appreciate the finer tastes of car-ownership. But today, there is an increasing number of people opting for a B-Segment hatch (Maruti Swift, VW Polo, Ford Figo etc) as their first car and this might be the starting signs of the Indian car market beginning to mature, though there is still a long, long way to go. Also, a very prudent few opt for the very wise decision of going in for a used car first to learn their driving ropes on it before buying a new car.
Once all that is decided, the next stop is the showroom. We prod around, look around, test drive (I have personally seen people come with drivers to test drive the car) and of course negotiate our asses off on every little accessory and color with bored and unyielding salesmen. If you ask me, a car salesman is THE profession to be in India as never seems that they have any trouble meeting their sales targets. After lot of haggling and spending hundreds of bucks traveling between showrooms for comparison studies to save those hundreds of bucks, we finally decide on the deal (on the most auspicious day possible), openly finding solace in claiming victory having coerced the dealer into giving free floor mats and a tank of petrol over the Rs.3000 discount, but secretly burning inside on all those lost rupees.Image Courtesy: Associate Press
Next, the banker provides us with the money, as he nods his head and agrees to the choice of the car as a "wise choice" and explains to us all the financial gobbledygook that we don't really understand. As we finally sign on the dotted line, our heart misses a beat and our insides feel like we have just ingested a kilo of Guntur's finest. The banker, meanwhile, smiles as he thinks of the soul that he has acquired for all eternity with the EMI deal. Anyway, the deal has been sealed and the purchase completed. Level N+1 of life has been reached. But yes, we glow inside and beam outside at our achievement. After weeks of waiting, the shiny new car, the first in the family ever, will be driven home! There will be great rejoicing all around. Names of Gods will be pasted on the front windshield and that of kids on the rear, evil eyes will be banished, poojas/rituals be performed depending on religion and the plastic covering inside the car will of course stay on for ages till it is worn into a thin-film. The day the plastic has to be removed will be a sad occasion with lots of mourning in the family, seen at par to the news of an unmarried girl losing her Virginity becoming public and talked of in hushed tones.
Anyway, Congratulations on owning your first car, or better, your family tree's first car. However, everyone will be overlooking a small detail. Who will drive the damn thing?
Next: "Of Course I know How to Drive!"