April 22, 2010

Parking lots and silky low ends

The automobile comes to India, in great number and variety over the last 15 years or so. To anyone who has spent a little while in auto-obsessed nations elsewhere in the world, it's no surprise that a number of other things follow:

* Parking lots (!) as both the acme of human ingenuity and the centerpiece of a city's attractions, for example one in Connaught Place. Last night, I parked in one such here in Bombay, a soulless monstrosity whose distinguishing features were two: the outrageous rate I got charged to use it (I had no choice), and the view of what looks like its steroid-stuffed twin, another parking lot coming up alongside.

* The perpetual promise of an end to traffic hassles via yet one more new facility -- sealink, flyover, wider roads, parking lots, whatever. Promise, but it's never sought to be tempered with the reality that said hassles never ease. Never.

Take the famous Bandra-Worli sealink, sold to us as the solution to this city's traffic problems. Yet in this recent slideshow feature on those problems, we read that the sealink has "added to the traffic woes" at the Haji Ali junction. Go to slide #2 to read a double whammy. One, that the nearby Cadbury junction is a "nightmare for motorists" that "will only worsen" if the sealink is extended. Two, the demand for more new facility for cars -- the Pedder Road flyover or "additional lanes" -- in the continued (forlorn?) hope of an end to the problems the same cars cause.

And consider the evidence, too, that the sealink is not being used to capacity anyway. (Thanks, S).

(And also compare the numbers there, in the slideshow from the earlier para, and in my post But how many carts?).

* The mushrooming of all kinds of auto accessories -- from the pointless spoiler I saw last night that pushed the rear of a little Zen down for no reason, to some kind of moisturizing cream to apply on my dashboard. I mean, every time I stop for petrol at a particular nearby station, some guy comes sidling up to me and asks in a conspiratorial whisper if I want to try this cream. Yanks out a grubby cloth and offers to show me its effect on a corner of my dash. It's all I can do to dissuade him. I mean, let's get this sraight: my dashboard is about the last thing I am interested in keeping supple and smooth like a baby's skin.

* The rise of that curious trade: auto journalism. You know, the flood of articles that pretend to be an "analysis" of a car, or a "comparison" between similar cars, but read like manufacturer handouts instead. Praise is gushing and embarrassing, criticism is of meaningless trivialities and invariably papered over anyway.

Recent examples? A single article about an overpriced and rather bloated European car has all these phrases: "looks brilliant in the flesh"; "drool factor is significant"; "muscular, sinuous character"; "fantastic ride quality"; "ride comfort is phenomenal"; "seats are very comfortable"; "insides have a very modern and contemporary feel … classy and very up-to-date"; "high-grade trim and quality are top class"; "easy to get enthralled by the silky low end [of the engine], the huge midrange punch and willingness to rev"; "diesel clatter is incredibly well suppressed"; "body control and grip are phenomenal"; "optional rear-wheel steering works wonders".


To balance that, I found precisely two (2) bouts of criticism: "Some amount of inconsistency [in the steering] and I wish it would give more feedback", and "Miss the super-precise and quick steering of the old [model of the car]." Immediately watered down with the above-mentioned "body control and grip are phenomenal".

Indeed, here in India we are in firmly in the auto age. The drool factor is definitely significant.


km said...

A moisturizing what for the what?

You are just kidding, right?

//If the "auto culture" inspires music like it did in the '50s and mid-60s here in the US, I am OK with that.

Suresh said...

The bit about auto journalism reminded me of Marghanita Laski's short article Cheap Clothes for Fat Old Women which I came across in The Penguin Book of Modern British Comic Writing. The article is a guide to fashion journalism and is a glossary of the more important words and phrases.


Amusing: cheap;
Dramatic: virtually unwearable but photographs well;
Everywhere: in a very few places; e.g., sable stoles are everywhere.

Laski also introduces the important notion of a "glamour word" which is, to quote her, evocative in the right context and of no real meaning whatsoever. (examples: bold, charm, nostalgic.)

When you have the time, perhaps you could compile a glossary of auto journalism for the benefit of us illiterates and semi-literates.

The same book has another hilarious article ("A High-Class Tipple, Make No Mistake") by the late Miles Kington on Wine journalism.