Do excuse the picture’s resolution, as it was taken 16 years ago on a 2.1 megapixel camera. That cute bundle of joy in my wife’s arms is my son Samuel and the reason I bought my first car, a second-hand Maruti 800.
I married at 26 and had my son at 28, so suffice to say, at the time, I hadn’t reached a point where I could afford a car. But as soon as I knew we were expecting a child, I was determined not to travel on my bike with an infant. Of course, families travelling on bikes isn’t unheard of, but somehow I wasn’t comfortable with the thought my wife and me with helmets and my child only cradled in her arms. Yes, I would ride carefully, but what if someone hit us, even at low speeds, what if I lost control for some reason like a dog running across my path? I simply could not shake those visuals from my head, so I figured I would use public transport like autos, taxis and buses.
But then a colleague, Vinod, who till today I am grateful to, offered me his Maruti 800 at a pretty good deal. I jumped at the option, as it would be safer than the autos and even cycle rickshaws (we were in Gurgaon then). And so, we scrapped together whatever we had and bought our first car, a second-hand Maruti 800, a few years before we had originally planned to buy a car. I also bought a basic child seat, and as the 800 had no rear seat belts or even a provision for them, we placed the child seat on the rear seat base and used the front seat back to wedge it in place.
So there we were, in a car that didn’t have a hope in hell of rating well in a crash test and with no rear seatbelts too. Terribly unsafe, right? No!
Sure, I should have bought a safer car, one with rear seatbelts and a better crash safety performance – which I did later, a Fiat Punto – but until I could afford that, I still wanted the relative safety of a car, any car. So a second-hand Maruti 800 was indeed safer than other options I would inevitably end up using. After all, safety is not just absolute, but also relative.
By now, you’ve probably figured out that this is about the six airbag proposal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against it, far from it, it’s just that it can’t come at a price. As Hormazd points out in his column, there are simpler, cheaper and more effective ways of keeping one safe. Plus, there’s also tax that must be lowered; wishful thinking maybe, but we are amongst the highest taxed nations on earth when it comes to cars, so something has to give there too. And here’s a very sobering footnote, while sources vary, two- and three-wheelers account for the highest share of road fatalities, twice that of cars.
Vikramjeet Ghosh - 389 days ago
Nostalgia Sergius ! Cannot forget Mathew's Altura and your Maruti 800. Never knew what Vinod upgraded to (Chevrolet Optra :)
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