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What I learnt, when my car got burnt

As I stood in front of my car’s burning pyre, life taught me ten unforgivable lessons.

entertainment Updated: Apr 17, 2011 15:00 IST
Sonal Kalra

I know, I know…it’s the turn of ‘what never to say to men’, but when you’ll hear my reason for not writing about that this week too, I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Last Sunday, as I glowed with knowledge that I’ve not ‘lost it’, thanks to the 109 of you who sent me reassuring mails on last week’s column on Anna Hazare — something else too was glowing right outside my house, and not in a good way. My family car, a less than 3-year-old Skoda Octavia, decided to self-immolate … and I don’t even know in protest of what, considering we had been taking good care of her and had made no attempts to make her go through the stress of cosmetic surgery by adding CNG or fancy fittings.

What I do know, however, is that I have God to thank for, because my husband had emerged from the car exactly two seconds before it burst into flames and turned into a mangled mesh beyond recognition. As my family, along with a few hundred people who had gathered, stood there, utterly shaken and watching the vehicle turn into a raging inferno, I learnt a few things. Sharing them with you all, and this time not just for calmness, but for survival.

Sonal Kalra1 I learnt that if dad asks you to keep an old-style steering lock in the car (the one with a heavy iron rod with a lock attached at the end), don’t make a face and say my hi-end car has central locking. When the fancy central locking causes the doors and power windows to jam and you are locked inside, that iron rod will prove more useful than the most precious accessory in the world. And in case you are stuck without it in an emergency, pulling the headrest out from your seat and breaking the glass using its two rods can save your life by seconds.

2 I learnt that the number of people that gather around the scene of a mishap is inversely proportional to the amount of sane advice you can hope to get in crisis. Trust your instincts and do what you think is right under the circumstances, at least you won’t have someone else to blame later.

3 I learnt a small fire extinguisher attached your car’s dashbord may not look pretty, or it may seem like an unnecessary expense, but may just turn out to be a lifesaver.

4 I learnt that to the crowd standing, you may look foolish taking photos or making videos when your car or house is on fire, but these come in most useful when you have to file for claims and have to wake up the authorities to take action.

5 I learnt that the same neighbours whom you squabble with every day over parking may just turn out to be the ones carrying buckets of sand to douse the fire. And that you would do the same for them without hesitation.

6 I learnt that red tapism, when it comes to police complaints, fire reports or insurance claims, doesn’t spare anyone.

7I learnt that you ought to feel nothing but pity for those who think that some people deserve less sympathy for a tragic loss just because they are supposedly in an ‘influential’ position.

8I learnt that no matter how many precedents you hear about ‘no action taken’ by big brands, it should never deter you from fighting for your valid rights as a consumer.

9I learnt that when your five-year-old starts to cry looking at her favourite car turn into ashes, you’ve got to look into her eyes at that moment and confidently say ‘We’ll soon get a new one’ — whether you can afford it or not.

10And finally, I learnt that in the end, even if the most expensive car in the world turns to ashes but you are still alive, it calls for celebration, not mourning. Cheers. Sonal Kalra misses a precious member of her family. Would Skoda sponsor a memorial service?

Mail your sympathies to her at sonal.kalra@hindustantimes. com

Follow Sonal Kalra on Twitter at twitter.com/sonalkalra