Caara Aattacaara!

The auto expo (which ended this week at New Delhi) always sees the unveiling of many exciting cars and other vehicles, many of which we sincerely hope don’t make it to our roads as they clearly fall under the category: industrial pranks.

But unfortunately some of them do manage to get a mainstream release. We have car models like ‘Sail’, ‘Zen Carbon’, ‘Matiz’ in mind when we say this.

We may get angry mails from auto nerds, passionately defending any of the above models. To them, our heartfelt, sincere response is, Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Zen Carbon was an amazing outcome of a thinking process that believed people wanted a family car with two doors less. Yes, Zen Carbon was no different from the normal Zen except that the former had just two front doors. Getting into a Tupperware container would have been a lot easier in comparison.

And we must also talk of Matiz, now mercifully off the roads because of the manufacturer Daewoo had to shut its operations for the crime of making the most stupid car known to mankind. Okay, not really. But Matiz was less a car more an automobile Simbu — always problematic and irritating.

One of my close friends had this car and it was as useful to him for his mobility as the goldfish in his fish tank.  Each morning the hood of his Matiz would be open, and he would be bent down, peering into the innards of the engine, hurling angry expletives at it, knowing full well that those impassioned abuses would be totally lost on that unthinking machine. But that blighted car had made him raving mad and if he had not sold it off for scrap (I think he had to pay the scrap dealer), he would have had to seek clinical counselling.

Shrink: Relax. What exactly is your problem? Tell me

Friend: The problems start right in the morning, while I am all eager to start and get going, the accursed thing just sits there without showing any response. And even on days when we manage to get going, something inevitably happens midway and it is back to square one. I end up shouting and berating. My inner peace is totally gone. I think I have brought upon myself life-long trouble.

Shrink: If it is any comfort to you, most people’s wives behave the same way.

Friend: Where does wife come here? I am talking of Matiz.

Shrink: Oh, your wife’s name is Matiz. Interesting name…

Okay, it is an apocryphal exchange, but it was pretty close to happening in the case of my friend.

You might think that my friend was unlucky to have landed a bad ‘piece’ and as such Matiz was not all that bad. Well, he once, absent-mindedly, left the car key dangling on the car door itself at a public parking lot. And when he came back after four hours, the car and the key were left untouched. Later, when he narrated this story to a car mechanic, who at that point of time was paying him daily visits, the mechanic coolly said, “no car thief is stupid is enough to steal a Matiz.”

Okay, end of rant. But my request to automobile manufacturers is whether they stop making cars like Matiz, Zen Carbon or not, they at least better not think up features for cars that look like stolen from stand-up comic’s material. I am talking of things like rain-sensing wipers.

Rain-sensing wipers, yes really. When I was told about this feature at a car showroom, my immediate reaction was, “is this car meant for driving by visually-challenged persons?”

The sales executive laughed volubly. And I know most loud laughters are insincere. But I don’t blame him. He was trying to sell a car to me. But I was really puzzled by the rain-sensing wipers.. I mean are there people who can’t see rain drops falling on the windscreen of the car they are driving? If there are, then the car showroom should stop selling cars to such people. They would be disasters on the road.

But rain-sensing wipers would still get only get a respectable second spot in the contest of Most Stupid Feature Ever In A Car. The first prize would, of course, be a cakewalk for — drum roll — ‘voice-activated headlamps and wipers’.

What would have made the design team come up with this feature? Were car-users suffering shoulder dislocation when trying to switch on the headlamps or wipers? Or were the drivers feeling distracted when trying to switch on the headlamps while driving?

At this rate, I am afraid, we will soon have cars that start to voice commands. Come to think of it, that is what my friend was trying to do every morning with his Matiz.

PS: Long before the automobile world thought of it, voice-activation technology in a car was first featured, inevitably, in a Rajinikanth film. Think: Start aayidu, Lakshmi!