“Uncle, save me!”
Medha Varma was frantic. Fuming, too. I knew of her presence within a 100-meter radius of my Greater Noida housing complex. How? Her mother, Rekhaji, visited us an hour earlier, and we learned that Medha was in the neighborhood beauty parlor.
What happened? Why this SOS call? She’s in soup? And what soup?
“Uncle, my Kwid conked out. We are at the market entrance. Bring your car. I have the battery connector,” she pleaded.
I understood her predicament. She drives Kwid with an automatic gear. Cars conking out is nothing unusual. It happens all the time. I was a victim several times in the recent past. Whenever such a mishap transpired, Medha’s dad, family friend, and ex-colleague Sharad Varma was my go-to man. My SOS call reached him always. A friend in need is indeed!
On the call, he would dutifully come with the same Kwid and along battery connector. The trouble will be sorted out quickly if my stars are bright and favorable. Otherwise, the long wait forGoMechanic or some such online mechanical assistance would be tapped and wait for the deliverance. Such help always test one’s patience.
The GoMechanic call center guy or girl would dive deep into your vehicle’s kundli, lasting at least 15 minutes. Then seek your location wherever you are stranded. Then the request to PayTM/GPay Rs.100 as initial advance and advise you to “pay in cash or online” to the mechanic who would attend to the problem on hand later. Once the advance is transferred, your WhatsApp will receive the Gomechanic contact coordinates.
That “Angel” would repeat the call center guy/girl routine. Be patient! Tough, indeed. What to do? You have no option but to bear everything. That’s the time car owners curse their vehicle buying decision. These kinds of mishaps are not a daily occurrence. Once in a while. Mostly in winter months. Yet, our tolerance level for waiting would be negative.
He (never seen a ‘She’) would land up and fix it as quickly as possible. Ride a short distance in your car, return, switch off, and reignite for verification that the fault has been rectified. Good SOP. Cash would exchange hands or electronically transfer, and you would be on your own. Bingo!
Sharad is a smart cookie. He always had a battery connector in the car’s trunk to handle emergencies. He is a great DIY aadmi. That’s a big plus. Atma nirbhar! Prime Minister Narendra Modi would love him!
Medha’s “battery connector” remark to me over the phone has to be understood in that context.
Over the next five minutes, I parked my Duster and opened the front hood to charge Kwid’s battery. There was a minor challenge. Being a weekend and evening rush at the marketplace, there was limited parking space. Not to be forgotten was the leaky sky and chilly weather. The battery connector wire was too short and unable to engage Duster withKwid. Cars needed to be closer, and the security guards were jittery due to the barricaded entry/exit blockade. A minor verbal scuffle ensued. The barricade boundaries were adjusted to repark Duster to be closer to Kwid.
I had never handled such a crisis. Either it was Sharad who rescued me or the GoMechanic guys on. So, Sharad was on call, guiding Medha and me on the intricacies of resolving the challenge. Like telemedicine, this remote surgery! After a few attempts of readjustment of battery connectors, Kwid came to life. But…
It refused to move an inch. No forward or reverse movement. The engine was revving, yet.
Medha’s Kwid is an automatic-geared car; you cannot manually push it in either direction. A few bystanders came, enquired, and offered suggestions. “That’s the problem with automatic gear cars,” said almost everyone. What a bloody and piquant situation!
Sheer coincidence, earlier in the day, I had read a report in the Wall Street Journal detailing the new craze for manual-geared cars in the United States of late.
Here it is: https://www.wsj.com/articles/manual-transmission-stick-shift-cars-929dc155 (subscription required!)
The blurb read: “To some fans, a stick shift provides a counter to an increasingly automated world.” J D Power pointed out that the number of new passenger vehicles with manual gear stood at to 43 models in 2022 from 69 in 2019. The effect of EV switchover due to the global climate change chorus! Maybe in a decade or so, the era of manual geared-vehicles would be history.
One of the bystanders spoke to his car mechanic friend to find a solution to the “car started, but not moving” crisis! Sorry. He can’t come. Weekend, bad weather, and night, you see!
All cheerfulness of Medha evaporated in a jiffy. What’s the point of the brrr-ing car but no movement? I asked her to wait and escorted Rekhaji home (6km away) with the promise to bring Sharad, the go-to man!
Sharad came down from his 18th-floor mansion to greet me at the gate and said: “Good news! Medha is on the move! The car is rolling! Anyhow, wait till she arrives.”
Medha came soon. “Uncle, the car began moving soon after you left,” remarked the cheery owner of automatic-geared Kwid. Of course, nothing to match the convenience of driving such a car. The only prayer for such owners is: let it not conk out in a godforsaken road. Then you had it!
The memory of an Innova car owner stranded on the Maduravayal bypass in Tamilnadu stranded over the January 2023 weekend for 18 hours with no mechanic in sight or ready to rescue him resurfaced on my mindscreen. Yes, his was an automatic-geared Innova. Hey Ram!
Automatic or electronic items have their own mind! Unpredictable. Let’s get used to them with the frenzy at which IT is creeping into our lives.