17 August 2013

Sriram Narayanan on: his job description

I do like my job. But I need a new skill set that will allow me to fend off that dreaded question: ‘So what exactly do you do?’

Sriram Narayanan
Car image

It’s unbelievable but true. I did not have to go through matrimonial sites or family connections to get married. Some people call it luck. I call it my wife’s questionable tastes. But if I had to find a, erm, mate, the matrimonial ad way, I might have had issues. Description: fat, squint-eyed, medium height. Profession: Motoring journalist. Salary: Available on request.

My description and salary might still invite some queries. But the profession column might be my undoing. I have been doing this for nine years now. The vague perception is that I get to drive cool cars and travel to cool places and all. But then, India isn’t a country with a rich automotive history or culture. Our 100-year history of movies ensures Bollywood gossip is front-page news.

But cars haven’t got out of the business section yet. So I can completely understand why motoring journalism hasn’t thrown up a Rajdeep Sardesai kind of household name. Well, some motoring hacks here are under the delusion that they are household names. But, well… anyway, the idea that somebody would want to read a magazine only about cars is something a lot of people can’t get their heads around.

So, here are some of the hilarious questions I can never quite answer. “Are you in the import-export business?” A simple “no” works best. “This is a friend’s car” works even better. Otherwise, I’d have to start from Karl Benz and the printing press to explain what I do. “What does your boss do?” This had me properly flummoxed at first. But with time, I gathered that people who ask me this think that I am a chauffeur for some extremely moneyed character. And that I have just got my employer’s vehicle for the night.

“Why don’t you take photos of your car on a road, instead?” I go through a lot of pain in trying to shoot cars in some really good places. Dockyards, malls, container yards, fancy hotels, golf courses, abandoned mills… (read: paperwork, permissions, and meetings with a person who covers his exec chair with a towel) – at the end of it all, he will ask me that dreaded question.

“You must be earning very well since you live in and out of fancy cars...?” I just say, “Oh yes. In fact, I have finally managed to get my own set of wheels”.

And I point them to my BSA Mach bicycle. “If I pursue this career, will I have a six-figure monthly salary?” The answer depends on how good this person’s math is. If I reckon he doesn’t understand figures before and after the decimal point, then I say, “What nonsense. You will have more than a six-figure salary.”

“My car has broken down. Can you do something about it?” If they think calling JustDial and figuring out the nearest mechanic is ‘something’, then yes. I can.

“So which is the best car right now?” This used to be irritating. But compared to other preposterous questions, at least this guy has grasped the basic concept of what I do. So while a lot of motoring journos dismiss him with a “Rolls-Royce” or “Ferrari” kind of answer, I try to be of some help.

“Can you get me new cars at half price?” Well, if I could, I’d be running a multi-car fleet and not writing columns.

“You are walking? Where is your car?” There are some who claim to eat, breathe, sleep and poop cars. I don’t. I don’t have petrol in my blood, nor do I have engine oil in my nostrils. I take the train to work, and the bus to places where parking is a pain.

On a long-distance holiday, I’d rather take a train or a flight than drive 1500 or whatever kilometres on badly lit highways. So if I am not on a story, I usually am not inside a car.

“What if you don’t return the car, or you disappear with it?” Well, considering the questions I have to field and the answers I have to think of, I am seriously considering putting this into action.

Tags: sriram narayanan



We make a trip to the north-eastern end of the country to meet a real Jeep, in one that keeps it real from the current crop