Only 18 hours before the moment, I was lamenting the comprehensive lack of ability among Indian drivers. The place was Poonamallee High Road at Aminjikarai and the time, around 11.15 a.m.
Traffic was moving slowly, at only 5 km per hour and being the cautious driver that I am, I kept to the right lane, next to the median, giving the rest of the traffic a wide berth. To my left, behind, was a Hyundai Accent patrol car. Suddenly, it was “thump!” I could sense the impact on my left side, where the Accent had swiped my almost new, assiduously maintained white Alto.
In India in particular, and the world in general, it is not difficult to guess the result of literally rubbing the law on the wrong side, even if the action resulted from smokey bear’s bad road sense. But in this instance, the police patrol was actually anxious that I should leave the scene without raising an issue. They smiled and gestured me to carry on! I had little choice, because this is a particularly difficult road chock full of traffic.
I stopped a short distance away and looked at my left side. My heart sank. There was a long paint smear in blue, on the spotless white. A closer look revealed that body scratches were there, but thankfully not too deep. Perhaps the financial damage would also be manageable when I ask Maruti Service Masters for an estimate later.
I kept reminding myself what the dentist, Dr. J.G.Kannappan once told me: it is better to have the dents and scratches only on your vehicle, and not on your cardiovascular system. Also, my friend TR’s sage advice on the wisdom of remaining detached from material objects, which cause so much pain when they are lost or damaged.
Statistically speaking, the probability of maintaining a scratchless car in Chennai is diminishing by the day. The car companies are sitting pretty. They sell vehicles by the tens of thousands which bump each other and come in for repairs — to wholly or partly company-owned facilities, like Maruti Service Masters. If you claim insurance, your no claim bonus goes up in smoke. If you want a no-fault certificate, it will depend on your standing with the Police, if you insist on an FIR and RTO formalities (the acceptance of which in any case will be remote if the other vehicle belongs to the Government) there will be lost productivity and running around. So the only feasible option is to go out-of-pocket. All this strengthens my belief that there is a major conspiracy in India to prevent walking, cycling, use of buses and trains hatched by the automobile industry.
For the moment, I can only rue the end of my new car’s honeymoon with Chennai’s 2 million plus traffic, a rickety madness endlessly traversing broken and pitted roads.