Monday, November 05, 2012

Why We Don't Own A Car

Photo Credit: Vijay Sonar

When Nikhil and I got married, it was the Baby Question I was most worried about. Since I had married too early to give old aunties the opportunity to ask me the "So when are you getting married?" question, I thought said aunties wouldn't waste much time asking the "So when do we see a kunji kaal (little leg)?" question.

It turned out I hadn't kept up with the times. The question we get asked most these days is another one altogether. Yup, you guessed it.

"Why haven't you bought a car yet?"

Really, it's incredible. Our parents, close friends, distant relatives - somehow, the absence of a car in our garage seems to vex them no end. Their logic is simple - a  DINK husband and wife, both of whom have been working for many years, should have a car. The End.

Nikhil usually escapes the question by passing the baton to me, "My wife won't let me buy one."

I look daggers at him, but it's true - I'm the one who has been delaying the purchase.

My brain usually wants to respond to the question with another one, "Why SHOULD we buy a car?" And then, ideally, go off into a rant about how the correlation between social status and car ownership is just another plot of the bourgeois capitalists, etc etc. (See, my mallu communist blood hasn't gone dry, despite three years in the corporate world.)

But since I have more tact than I'm usually given credit for, I don't do that. Instead, I choose one of the many many reasons I have carefully listed out in my head. In fact, if you're a close friend, you'll be honoured with more than one reason. Here are my Top Ten, in no particular order:
  1. Because we don't need one. Nikhil already has a bike. There are just two of us, and we're both fit enough to get on the bike, and young enough for it to not seem pathetic. The day we start a family (where family is defined as including a baby), that day we'll buy a car. I promise.
  2. Because it doesn't make sense in Bangalore. If you've ever experienced Bangalore traffic, you'll know why. And if you haven't - well, good for you. A bike moves about ten times faster than a car in Bangalore.
  3. Because we just bought a lake-facing third-floor apartment, yo! And we don't have any spare change at the moment, yo!
  5. Because it makes more sense to hire a taxi when we can't do without a car. For example, when the parents visit, or the time we were going all around Bangalore looking for the perfect apartment. We spend about a thousand bucks on taxis per month, which is obviously less than most people spend on petrol per month.
  6. Because Nikhil doesn't drive very well, and I don't drive at all. The reason Nikhil doesn't drive very well is that he only gets to drive when we go home to visit his parents. And the reason I don't drive at all is a long story involving a jumpy side-seat driver of a father who was too handy with the hand-brake - honestly, that story deserves a whole other blog post of its own.
  7. Because I really, REALLY worry about the environment - unlike, apparently, everybody else I know. I don't see how we're going to make it to the next century if we keep on like this. And not buying a car is my tiny way of not ruining the environment.
  8. Because of the number of times I have been stuck in traffic (in a bus, of course), and whole-heartedly cursed the idiots who drive themselves to work ALL ALONE in their big fat SUVs every day, thus adding to Bangalore's pollution levels as well as its traffic.
  9. Because it would mean paying our non-tax-paying multiple-flat-owning landlord another six hundred rupees per month for a parking spot, and I think that's daylight robbery.
  10. Because Bangalore has a mostly kick-ass public transportation system (except for the Metro which might as well not exist).
  11. Because it's what's expected. And for once in my life, I don't want to do what's expected.
  12. Because a car is a depreciating asset, as opposed to an apartment. (Dear Fin guys, I don't know if I used that term correctly, but please don't lecture me, okay? What I meant was that its price decreases over time, as opposed to a house. That's all. Thank you.)
  13. Because - I might as well admit it - I'm a cheapskate.
  14. Because I feel good when I travel by public transport. I feel all superior to the idiots who drive their own cars, I get to read a book in peace, I get to observe my fellow travellers, I'm spared the tension of driving in the messy Bangalore traffic, I feel like I'm still young and in college.
  15. Because I don't want to buy into the story the Point One Percent are selling, and become part of the mindless Matrix.
There. I was supposed to stick to ten, but I had so many more.

Do you own a car? Do you agree with the above? Will you decide not to buy a car just because you can afford to? Do you choose to travel by public transport when it's convenient? Do you car-pool? Do you think it lowers your social status to travel by public transport - buses, the Metro, etc? Do you want to be a puppet of the car manufacturers? Have I managed to change your thinking at least a little bit?

I really, really want to know. 
• • •


Anumita said...

Brilliant - only you should have written it a year and a half back before some of us DINKs did the mindless deed and had not brains enough to reason it out this beautifully :)

DR said...

@Anu: LOL - the next time I have such an epiphany, you will be the first to know. :P

Vivek Sakthi said...

Chechi kalakki :)

So I have decided not to ask you that question- "Why no car?"

And sorry about this, I'm very passionate about cars and driving. So I don't mind buying a car paying heavy interest to banks.. :D

pooja said...

This makes absolute sense, though I am 24 and not married yet but earning well, the only way parents or relatives see seemingly 'fit' girl/boy when they buy a car. That is the benchmark, it means 'you-have-arrived', Sheesh!
All of your above reasons make absolute sense. I wanted to buy this bicycle of 20k and my dad gave me the 'I-dont-know-what-have-I-done-wrong-with-you' look and was shocked, so much for caring about environment. And kudos! Stand by what you feel and don't give in to the car buying frenzy. And 3BHK apartment, woohoo! great :)

DR said...

@Vivek: You're a lost cause then. But I bet the petrol cost will be higher than the interest. ;)

@Pooja: A bicycle is awesome! I wish I had the courage to try that. But I get scared just watching cyclists go by in the middle of traffic. :|

Also, it's a 2BHK - on the third floor. :)

Anonymous said...

Nice piece, Devika.
#9 takes the cake :)
I believe a car (or rather any depreciating asset) purchase should be postponed for as long as possible. Thankfully, my office is walking distance and being in Mumbai with the ubiquitous auto rickshaws, I never felt the need for a car.
My only grouse would be missing the self-drive road trips. But, what are friends-with-cars for, eh? :)

DR said...

@Jatin: #9 should be read along with #13. ;) And wow - you're real lucky to be living so near your office! I've heard horror stories about commuting in Mumbai.

Ninja said...

tch tch tch

All these environment fundas from a girl who always wanted to ride on (mine?) bikes in college!

I see quite a few hypocritical, sour grapes points out there. :)

Point No 4 - It's called diesel.

But then a bike is good enough. But then ask Nikhil to spare his "dear" wife for a weekend, and inform me about that weekend. Let me give you 15 reasons WHY one buys a car.

Ninja said...

p.s. read "give you" as "show you"

p.s.s. Google comment verification (identifying 2 words from picture) sucks!!!

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Sorry, Ninja!

DR said...

1. Bikes are better than cars environmentally, because of the mileage. Also read point 2 on why bikes are better in Bangalore. And obviously I wasn't so environmentally aware in college! :)
2. Hypocrisy - yes. Because I'm not going to stop travelling just because I know it ruins the environment. But then again I'm not going to go for road trips just for the sake of driving, and I'm not going to commute in my own vehicle to work if I have an alternative.
4. Sour grapes - no. Because sour grapes refers to something I can't have, and a car is something we could buy with the 200% bonus your company seems to like giving out. :)
4. Point 4: Diesel is even worse than petrol as far as the environment is concerned, so no way would I buy a diesel car.

Ninja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ninja said...

Lol. What if I reverse the offer to you? :)

well you asked for it

1. There is no "better" or "worse" when it comes to environmentally. If you really feel so, chuck the bike, the taxi(s), auto(s), get a cycle, or start walking.

2. I just gave you an alternative, one of many. Everyone chooses one as per their likings.

3. Excuse me, I didn't get it :( You (plural) got it. Anyway, that 200% won't even get you a Nano, so moot point.

4. Wrong. Do some research will ya. Deja vu - there is no worse or better. They are all equally bad. Ultra-low-sulphur diesel IS a better fuel, but then we are never gonna get it. Technically diesel is marginally better as you get more kms to the liter, but that's a really stupid argument.

I could go on and on, but we'll never get to anything. But honestly, you are not getting the point - I'm not your average Joe who buys the car to go from home to office and weekend shopping mall trips. When I say a car has a lot of + points, I mean it. Btw I never said it has to be a car OR a bike. :)

Anyway this is turning out to be a Bhains ke aage beeen bajana so I'm outta here!

DR said...

@Nikhil & Ninja: Do let me know once you *men* have decided whether *I* can go to Pune or not.

@Ninja: I agree. No point continuing this debate when we're both so fixed in our positions. :)

Anonymous said...

I live in Goa and you justttttttt dooooooooooo need a car in Goa!!! Ah driving in the rains :)

I think its very very city dependent! :P

Vishal Agarwal said...

Awesome post! I so relate to & abide by it :)

Harsha said...

You should add - "Because I don't live in Delhi" as a reason too!

On a separate note - long time! how are you?

@Ninja - I agree; this verification thing sucks!

DR said...

@Anon: Agree - you do need a car if a place doesn't have much public transport. Or if it keeps raining all the time...

@Vishal: Thanks! :)

@Harsha: Delhi or Gurgaon? Many people I know in Delhi use the Metro to commute. Gurgaon tho is a dry soul-less city without basic infrastructure, so completely agree with you there.

Yup, it's been a long time. :) I'm doing fine - on a break from work at the moment, and it rocks! :) How's it working for IFC?

Indu said...

hey devika,

love the post!Its simply brilliant!

By the way, congrats on ur lake facing-2BHK apartment.

- Nandu.

Nandu said...

honestly, this picture verification thng- sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

have you bought a car yet ? i think its absolutely callous on your part to let/force your husband to ride a two wheeler in Indian traffic.