The Man from Madras Musings has a car, produced by the American company that has manufacturing facilities near our city. To him, a vehicle is just something that takes you from place to place and he does not waste time in debating suspensions, transmissions, and whatever else that automobile enthusiasts agonise over. He also, it must be admitted, does not look too much into mileage, not because he is well stashed with money, but because in his view, driving around in our city is not conducive to fuel efficiency of any kind.

But let us pigeonhole all that for the nonce. What MMM writes about is the levels of service that our vehicle manufacturers have attained. There was a time when our country had three carmakers and each took at least four years to deliver after you placed your order. MMM still remembers an anecdote wherein a senior corporate executive from our city had his vehicle delivered to him from the manufacturer in the eastern side of our country, after the obligatory wait of 48 months. He was shocked to find a dead lizard stuck on the bonnet and what’s more, the vehicle had been spray painted with the animal on it. Scraping it off would mean getting the paint scratched. So he wrote to the manufacturer who very kindly offered to take the car back but cautioned that a new vehicle would take another 48 months. So our man retained the car and drove it around, lizard and all. He eventually became quite attached to the animal and it gave him no trouble.

Contrast that with the present. MMM had his vehicle sent over for its annual service and received a call shortly thereafter asking in very obsequious terms as to whether he had any specific complaint. On his replying in the negative the voice at the other end sighed in relief and profusely thanked MMM. The car was sent back after treatment which no doubt included a massage and a shampoo, together with an invoice whose value would have got MMM a new car in the lizard era. MMM paid up without a murmur. A couple of days later came a call from the dealer who had sold the car to MMM, asking if he was happy with the service done. MMM assured the caller that all was well. Three days later came a call from the sales office of the manufacturer asking MMM if all was well. This time MMM was a little brusque and said that he had already received a call enquiring to this effect and so could he please be left alone? The voice apologised and said that must have been the dealer while this was a call from the manufacturer. Four days later came a call asking if all was well. When MMM replied that he had already gone through this exercise, the caller apologised and said he was from the call-centre in Delhi and had no connection with the earlier ones. MMM banged down the receiver. He is now bracing himself for a call from the United States of America. MMM is also now worried if there is something wrong with his car that these callers know of but are not wanting to share with him. He better check it for lizards.