Our choices are also different as there are not many roads here in Bangalore wherein owners of the powerful macho cars can show off! Big cars invariably muscle in the narrow corridors of the congested Bangalore traffic. While they arouse some envy, it is tinged with derision as these big cars are invariably surrounded and outpaced by the lowly autos. One benefit of being big is that these cars are not as battered as the other cars for some reason! I remember that Somwang, our driver in Thailand was wary of Benz cars and would yield to them! His explanation was that these cars either belong to 'Official' or 'The mafia' and it is 'danger' to tangle with them! A sensible approach!
I noticed that in Bangalore the compacts, weaving in and out of the knotted traffic are the winners! These small cars, mostly feminine, seem to beguile you into yielding them space! So it is obvious that the compact should be our choice for ease of driving and parking. Not really! Common sense does not always prevail! It is more akin to an arranged match for an Indian boy! It is not love but other considerations that count!
For instance, Tara was insistent that the car have a large boot space! When asked 'why' she said it was for me, to be exact, my golf clubs! Very considerate of her! So compacts were out! She wanted a 'black' car, a surprise as I thought lighter colors like the beige would be her choice. She said 'no way! that is neither here nor there'! I suppose I was thinking of all the match making ads, 'Wheatish' seemed to be the one most popular! Anyway, once we were set on the basics, we sought advice as we were totally confused with the variety of choices available!
While the advice was very sincere, I became more confused. It was similar to a marriage proposal in a joint family wherein grandmother downwards every one has a say! Some showed surprise and wondered why we wanted to buy a car! It was like 'Do you think really you are eligible to be married'! The advisers had only our interest in their minds and did not want us get into the 'rat race' of driving in Bangalore.
Most were firm that Diesel was not the car for us as we would not be using car every day. So a diesel car was out! There were conflicting opinions about an automatic drive for the car, one I was used to for the last so many years. I was keen to get back to my Indian days and took shelter in budget constraints and chose a manual shift. Possibly the money I saved may go away in repairs of the clutch and gear box! The thought of buying a used car was not even open for discussion! Do not take the risk was the advice!
Then the question of who would drive the car was in some ways tough! The reasons why I should not drive were spelt out. All sound arguments and very true: 'There were too many drivers who are crazy, selfish. Road rage is high! Added to that are the two wheelers, cyclists and pedestrians who have their own rules or no rules'. The compromise was that I would drive in the day and hire a driver for the nights! It is lucky that we have this facility of hiring drivers for short periods!
I was reminded of the time I bought my first car, I had limited funds and so my choice was also limited! It was truly an arranged marriage, very traditional, as I did not even see the car as I lived in Pune and the car was bought in Bangalore by Jayaram, my brother in law! It worked for me and I used the car faithfully for the next 20 years! Amazingly we sold it for a small profit when we moved to Bangkok!
Times are very different now! They bring demo cars home and let you test drive. I was against this 'Bride showing' system as an young idealist but I suppose it is ok for cars. One of the consultants, that is how they are known, even showed me how to park the car in our narrow portico. A pity that he did not notice a flower pot and damaged the car. I almost bought the car feeling guilty about it.
I suppose I enjoyed the special attention I was given by the car dealers. We also had the experience of cancelling our booking; the color Tara wanted was sold out after we had booked the car! The dealer was not sure when it would be available again and could not hold the 'bride' price we had negotiated and fixed! (Bride price is part of the Thai tradition, esp when a farang marries a Thai girl). Importantly the advance we had paid was returned to us promptly!
Finally we chose a small sedan, petrol and manual shift model and with boot which could hold two sets of golf clubs, and probably three! Our friend Lakshmi who stayed with me through this selection process was pleased as we finally chose a Hyundai Verna. It was his choice for us from the start!
BTW we pay for lifetime registration of the cars and the car is depreciated by 20% on the day you drive it home! So it is no more an assest but a write off! I am not sure whether the new car will last as long as my old one! It was already ten years old when I bought it and I used it for another twenty years!
As I began reviewing this blog, a person writing in TOI opined that driving a car in Bangalore was akin to meditation and was spiritual! I liked the piece and do not mind that he just took away the title of my next blog and echoed many of my thoughts!