Bare Essentials

WhatsApp. According to the latest figures, over 1.6 billion people use it. And that’s discounting China where it is largely blocked. Based on several social media reports, it is also the first thing that a huge chunk of people check on their smartphones.

For an equally preposterous percentage of people — almost 80% of total consumers — the first real activity of the day is checking their smartphones. If they had a choice, breathing would be second. Other morning duties would be optional undertakings.

I have never understood the obsession with WhatsApp or any other direct messaging application. I’m not a compulsive phone checker either. There’s substantial space of time between when I wake up and first check my phone. And the first app that I access isn’t WhatsApp; it’s LinkedIn. I’m a freelance motoring journalist, hence. It hasn’t helped in any way other than making me feel envious of people who have actual jobs.

But let’s stick to WhatsApp. Specifically, the family chat groups. You know the kind where all of seven people are active out of the seven million who are part of them? Yeah, those.

My grand mother bore eight children — eight! Those eight went on to marry and make more kids. The fourth generation is now kind of coming of age. So imagine how many people there are in the ‘Family Tree’ group. It’s madness.

One person in the group — who happens to be well on the tiring side of 50s — decided to spit some twaddle recently. It expectedly drew criticism in strongly worded expressions. A lot of people were typing in — about two dozen. That was most active the group had ever been. 

Ultimately it became a thread that had preachy stuff which was unneeded and some despicable garbage. A couple of elders ultimately intervened to bring sense and balance. Such people are imperative.

In this time of lockdown, I’m learning how to cook — among other things — and I’m not half bad at it, if I can be pompous. 

Some staple things — the most basic ones — lay the foundation for the flavours to erupt out in your mouth. Salt, chilli, onion, masalas — they establish the taste right at the beginning. Things like sesame seeds or coriander leaves and other fanciful herbs blow up the presentation. Sure, they add some pop to the taste too, but they’re more good-to-have rather than being must-have. 

This brings me to a diversion towards cars. You see, like there are imperatives in resolving family matters on WhatsApp or cooking, there are certain things in speccing cars that which are indispensable. Rather, should be. 

Over the years we’ve gone mental with features. That’s great and I’m all for it. I’d love for my mid-sized sedan or hatchback to have everything that is being offered, and beyond. But before that, I want the most basic things to be made mandatory items. 

There’re still cars that don’t have telescopic steering adjustment — that’s plain stupid. I think seat height adjustment should also be essential. Let it be manual adjustment, that’s okay, but it should be there. This might be contested by the product and financial planning folks sitting behind laptops, but they’re wrong. I don’t care what  their argument is, they’re just wrong. 

Big features make cars pricier and bring up the profit margins. I understand the financial game, but if you’re throwing in rich features and luring customers to sign the cheque for the top variants, it wouldn’t harm to include the most basic things in the list of standard items across trim levels. In fact, they shouldn’t even be called features. They should simply be default inclusions

It’s okay if I have a simple reversing camera and not one with a 360-degree view. Rain sensing wiper mechanism is a great luxury but I am absolutely fine with a manually operated system. I really don’t feel the need to have sunroof. Ventilated seats? Yes, my ass would thank you for it, but give me the tools to get myself seated properly first! And yes, dual-airbags as standard please. 

Come on guys, let’s get the basics sorted.

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