Naomi Klein ought to be laughing her unbranded socks off at the latest crime wave sweeping Bombay.
According to rough statistics (hastily concocted by yours truly) car thieves have stolen the badges off a full 30% of the vehicles currently plying our city’s streets.
For the uninitiated, badges are the logo holders which transmit all the prestige for which one pays a serious premium when one buys, say a Volkswagen Jetta instead of a Skoda Laura, although we know we’re really getting the same vehicle. The removal of these labels amounts to a supreme act of class and marketing anarchy and threatens to derail a major sub-event of the Great Indian Status Olympics.
While this new rash of thefts is no real surprise, in a city where poverty, disparity and rising temerity has led to such desperate acts as the pillaging of freshly minted highway signs and smelly old trash cans for their scrap value – and while there are reports from across the world of the wholesale theft of copper and other semi-precious metals from rooftops and even from public art installations in the harsh light of the global financial meltdown – the scale of the situation in Bombay has reached a particular tipping point.
So much so, that the police recently raided the Chor Bazaar lair of one Mansuri Farouque, reseller extraordinaire of ‘used’ automotive parts, issuing him a strict warning to desist from supporting the resale of stolen emblems.
I know this because I tried to hit him up for a replacement for my ancient Merc’s three pointed star, which was unceremoniously removed by some less-than-human creature on a vile and dastardly night late last year. I was fully expecting to buy back my own stolen monogram – but came back empty handed. Rather than feeling guilty about tacitly and perversely supporting the theft and resale market, I felt upset about the rickshaw driver who was now going to end up with my prized posession on his vehicle’s mangled, smoky behind. The option I will now be considering is Ebay, which has facilitated a real market for replacement (a Mercedes Benz hood ornament trades for ~$40, as opposed to the showroom price of ~$500).
Apart from closing out my grey market-grey ethic source, the local police have had little success in curbing this menace and point to the token arrests of a few school and college-going delinquents caught red-handed in the act of prising off badges and who represent only the frontline of this trend.
The Western India Automobile Association has advised car companies to use stronger adhesives that will make it virtually impossible to steal car emblems – without causing serious damage to the targeted vehicles that is.
In this bleak scenario, several car owners have begun to resort to the supreme but honorouble sacrifice of debadging their own vehicles.
The beleagured Japanese auto industry – which once gave us such brilliant philosophies as kaizen and muda – can now look forward to a new contribution to the world: hara kiri.