Humour: Five kinds of petrolheads
A bird’s-eye view of car enthusiasts from the comfort of the passenger seatUpdated: Jan 19, 2020 00:26 IST
As we stood in the shade of an Udipi restaurant after a breakfast of butter-laden delights, our group began its usual chatter about plans for the rest of the day. While most of the party were doomed to the latest Star Wars film, someone suggested Ford v Ferrari as a follow-up. To which my museologist friend asked without a trace of irony: “So what’s it about?” Such a refreshing ignorance in a world obsessed with cars.
The passion with which autobrats speak is a bit comical for those engaged with life’s more pressing questions; like whether the Kolkata biryani comes anywhere close to the Awadhi variety!
I’ve watched more than my share of BBC’s Top Gear (mostly to scare petrolheads with tech babble) and I’ll readily admit to its seductions. The “boys” offer a good mix of old-fashioned machismo, cuteness and dandiness. And then there’s The Stig, a faceless racing driver after my own heart. Watching that show made me not so much a fan of cars as of the vast funds at the disposal of the producers. However whimsical the whim or challenging the challenge, the show made it seem like it was worth spending millions on. The social justice crusader in me revolted several times each episode. Its alter ego, the ridiculous exhibitionist, revelled in every obscene display of mechanical extravagance.
This is a committed subspecies of auto maniacs. They live for the moment when the engine goes rufffffff as they zip through a quiet street for 250 swift metres. For that ineffable thrill of foot on pedal and head in a cloud left by burning fuel. They’re often spotted late in the night, when you’re strolling to your neighbourhood paan shop, in very low cars with very high visibility, often in a cap and self-satisfied smile. They pretend not to notice the potholes and the general incongruity of their gleaming vehicle on a road that mimics the lunar surface. Vrrrrroooom they go from one traffic light to the next, looking extravagantly ridiculous.
Many years ago, a granduncle promised us siblings a trip to the beach in his car. After an incredibly slow ride in his jalopy (thank you, Archie comics), we finally arrived. Only, the granduncle did not quite approve of the parking space available. And so round we turned and back we went, the beach picnic having turned into an early lesson on men and automobiles. I still encounter these specimens everywhere. The ones who find it impossible to part with the plastic covering their seats. The ones who maintain meticulous records of everything car-related. The ones who treat imperceptible car scratches as signs of a malevolent universe out to get them. They deserve our compassion, not judgement.
A brand of car love that sets the wheels of desire running wild. This otherworldly category has no grounding in reality; instead, it dreams up fantasy scenarios. For instance, they will say things like – “That’s my next car” – pointing to a BMW T-Rex, for instance, from their ragged little hatchback inherited from an aunt leaving town. Not that there’s any problem with dreaming. It’s just that the passion with which this autobrat speaks is a bit comical for those engaged with life’s more pressing questions (like whether the Kolkata biryani comes anywhere close to the Awadhi variety). Always revved up with nowhere to go, this breed just brakes my heart.
The road ragers
As someone who is always driven (and I don’t mean in the context of motivation), this breed of driver can be the most difficult to endure. At its extreme, road rage can lead to tragic loss. But usually, this is just a simmering fury that heats up nothing more than the air-conditioned interior of a car. The slurs can range from observations about the offending drivers’ skills or parentage, their road or dress sense. It doesn’t really matter. Sadly, all invective is intercepted by co-passengers while the intended recipient is safely sealed in his/her own AC bubble. I’ve often dreamt of remote-controlled ejector seats, where the cussing driver can be propelled into space even as the genius car recovers and goes into auto mode. And drivers think occupying the passenger seat is a passive activity.
From HT Brunch, January 19, 2020
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