Sriram Narayanan on: shopping

Posted by Sriram Narayanan at 11:33 am on Friday August 01, 2014

My life has considerably changed in three ways. One – I have entered the 30s. Two – I’ve given up a stable source of income in TopGear and am now in New Zealand. Jobless. And three – I have gotten myself a smartphone. Turning 30 was inevitable. Unless I attempted crashing that GranTurismo Sport that did not have a functioning airbag in Nice, back when I was 28. But the other two events are my own doing.

New Zealand is beautiful and the weather is great. In the two weeks I have been here, I have seen an Aston Martin Rapide S and a Vantage, a Nissan GTR, a few 911s, a couple of Porsche Boxsters and countless Merc AMGs, BMW Ms, Audi RS-es – either parked casually or sauntering about. I find this phenomenal for a country with a population that’s about as much as three Mumbai suburbs put together, with an apparently stagnant economy that boasts very little local manufacturing.

For the beauty and fresh air around, New Zealand’s proximity to the South Pole makes it susceptible to intense ultraviolet rays. Why? Because the biggest hole in the Earth’s ozone layer happens to be above the Antarctic – a place with no government, no local population and where the only carbon emissions come from Emperor Penguins and a few scientists.

I was recommended sunscreen protection to reduce the possibilities of skin cancer. And like all Indians who lose their breath converting foreign exchange to Indian currency, I thought it prudent to get sunscreen from India rather than paying in NZ Dollars. I thought it to be simple process – go to a store, ask for sunscreen, pay the money, and return home. But I returned empty-handed and went straight for my laptop to do some research. On sunscreens.  

You see, you can’t just walk into a shop and ask for sunscreen. You need to figure out the ideal Sun Protection Factor or SPF rating. So you have SPF 15, 30, 50 and even 100. So higher the better, right? Wrong. Because SPF 50 does not provide more than three times the protection of SPF 15. And there is no point in higher SPFs because with sweat, water and time, your sunscreen wears off anyway. So I decided SPF 30 seems reasonable. It’s not. Because the SPF rating only protects your skin from Ultraviolet B rays. For Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, I needed to look for the A++ or A+++ ratings. And sunscreens with lower SPF rating often had higher UVA ratings.

On my laptop, I could find which city in the world was most ideal for me to live in and even which breed of dog suited my lifestyle. But nothing on the Internet had a clue about the ideal sunscreen for me. By this time, I had lost all sympathy for people who write in to this magazines asking which car they should buy. My advice is simple – buy whatever car you can afford.  

Which brings me to the touchscreen phone I have been using. People crib when they have to learn to drive. They hate the clutch, they hate the steering, they hate the other pedals too. But imagine if all cars were built by Apple or Google. It would have a single, touch-operated screen instead of a steering and pedals. Drag your finger left to turn left, drag it forward to accelerate, drag it backward to decelerate, double tap softly to brake, tap and pinch to emergency brake. Imagine the pile-ups on our streets if cars were operated like smartphones.

This is when I realised, the motorcar is the most ancient piece of technology around. Yet, it’s the only modern implement that’s repaired and maintained rather than disposed off and replaced. It’s the only off-the-showroom aisle consumer good that can withstand wind, gravel, heat, potholes and not break. If you have to buy one, all you need is some money and the desire. And I have spent a decade earning a living trying to find faults in nearly all of them.



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