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A short life span for modern cars, machines!

Last updated on: March 11, 2013 12:35 IST

A short life span for modern cars, machines!

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All machines will go the way of all flesh - and the more modern the machine, the sooner it will do so, writes Subir Roy.

There was a twinge within when I read the news that the Fiat or Premier Padmini taxis of Mumbai were almost on the way out.

How could the cluster of sight (black and yellow), sound (defiant burr of the poorly silenced engine on quick acceleration) and smell (merry, pre-global-warming-fear exhaust) from those defiant sturdy little bugs by which you knew the great city be gone?

It is like London without its black cabs or Kolkata without its Ambassador taxis; you cannot have one without the other.

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Image: A driver stands amid parked taxis near Santa Cruz domestic airport in Mumbai.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters.
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The few that still plied the roads will soon cross 25 and so are to be put to sleep mandatorily; and they don't make them any more. Change, progress and new technology have left their manufacturers behind.

All good things must someday be deemed to have lived their time and be passed on, even if it is something like your 20-year-old shoes, which were as comfortable as, well, an old pair of shoes.

But what put my back up was the information further down in the piece that the new replacements had many minuses in comparison to the old bugs - too little boot space and, quite unacceptably, lack of sturdiness.

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Image: A Premier Padmini taxi travels along Marine Drive in Mumbai.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters.
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Rest assured, I was ready to bet, these would be gone long before they turned 25. And if so, then I would be ready to cry out in silent protest, between sips of the morning cup of tea: what price progress?

This kind of feeling had been growing in me for some time and I had been suppressing it, telling myself that I must not become a Luddite, rejecting technology and starting to think like a typical old past-his-primer who lamented every retirement – animate or inanimate – with a sigh.

Change is good and mostly for the better, I had been firmly telling myself, until the news about the Mumbai black-and-yellows got the better of me.

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Image: A taxi driver inspects the engine of his Premier Padmini taxi at a taxi park in Mumbai.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters.
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The feeling first surfaced when my nearly five-year-old car started sending disturbing signals that if I did not get rid of it soon, it would send my wallet into intensive care.

I rued my failure to go by my own sound policy followed with my last few cars: get rid of a car as soon it crosses four so as to reap the double bonanza of avoiding leaping maintenance costs and getting a good resale price.

I had idly thought that old age would be kept at bay for some more time because the particular make was known for sturdiness. But in the last few months, the steering wheel has started softly moaning at every turn and the shock absorbers have been behaving as if they have turned into solid rocks.

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Image: A de-registered Premier Padmini taxi is pictured covered in dust with love hearts etched on its windows inside a scrapyard in Mumbai.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters.
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Cars of this make, in particular, are not what they are cracked up to be, I thought, putting out of my mind the heretical notion that obsolescence is planned into products these days.

But then all of a sudden my similarly four-plus laptop started groaning every time I sought to boot it up, as if to say that I should let a sleeping ageing machine lie for good.

Of course, I have taken it for a thorough check-up, asking the clinic (authorised service centre, that is) to conduct every kind of diagnostic test, including the equivalent of a full-body scan, never mind the cost, to ensure all was well.

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Image: A mechanic sits on a seat salvaged from a scrapped Premier Padmini taxi at a workshop in Mumbai.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters.
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It was only the fan that was acting up and we have put it in its place as best as we can, they have assured me.

But every time I hear the machine groan, even if just a little now, I see nightmares of a crashed hard disk and the complete loss of my data.

To regain peace of mind, I have secured an external hard disk and made a complete back-up. That should take care of every eventuality, I have firmly told myself.  

But the feeling I have recently become familiar with has returned, whispering in my ear that a machine is a machine.

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Image: A mechanic uses a wire brush to scrub the inside of a Premier Padmini taxi before it is refurbished at a taxi workshop in Mumbai.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters.
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All machines will go the way of all flesh - and the more modern the machine, the sooner it will do so.

The last straw that has broken the back of my confidence in technological progress is the state of our sturdy electromechanical washing machine after a journey by truck from Bangalore to Kolkata.

Even its continental pedigree was not enough of a bulwark and the young man from the service centre, who advised against a costly repair and recommended junking the machine, ended his spiel with a slight smile and the words: after all, sir, it has done eight years.

That's what modern technology has come to, I have concluded fatalistically.



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