world has never been fair. There is always a rich world and a poor world. Just
like the way there are privileged auto journalists and the not so privileged
auto journalists in India. The ongoing covid-19 pandemic has thrown the lives
of many people into complete disarray, so much so that many have lost their
jobs and several others their lives because of the deadly virus.
journalism in India, and perhaps the world over, has never been independent or
fair. Auto journalists and Indian OEMs work hand in glove and almost everything
is dictated by the latter. Whether it is a motorcycle, a scooter or a
four-wheeler, you cannot “review” it unless you pander to the whims and fancies
of the OEMs. Whether it is a vehicle for review, a long term car or bike that
comes into your garage for a year or more, happens only if you are in the good
books of the OEMs. But more of that later!
to the covid-19 pandemic, Indian auto journalists who have been so used to foreign
junkets, travelling abroad by air in business class, staying in fancy 5 and 7
star hotels and even getting expensive stuff
as a parting gift after driving or riding a vehicle in a beautiful
locale, may now be experiencing massive withdrawal symptoms. From Geneva to
Frankfurt, from Tokyo to Dubai, from Barcelona to Miami, from Monaco to Berlin,
from Perth to Istanbul, it was always a hectic time for Indian auto
journalists. Thankfully, I was never the pandering kind, so I never got an
invite and I got so used having a meal cooked at home almost every other day,
that I experience no withdrawal symptoms today.
I have always been keeping a track on the so called “successful” Indian auto
journalists. They were always on the move. If it was not a drive in Monaco, it
would be the Frankfurt Motor Show, the New York Motor Show, the Shanghai Motor
Show or just a fancy holiday sponsored by an OEM in some exotic location in a
never heard of place on the global map. I would always be asking myself, “Don’t
these blokes ever get tired of eating out of the hands of OEMs? Are they not
scared of cholesterol? Do they not have a conscience?” But that was the foolish
me asking with my equally naïve conscience.
local press conferences used to give me a funny feeling in my solar plexus. Why
are they serving us (auto journalists) lunch or dinner at the press conference?
Why are they giving us a gift on our way out? And most important, why are they
not fair when it comes to giving out a vehicle to drive or a motorcycle to
ride? Why this favouritism? I could never fathom that. Unlike journalists
covering other beats like politics, crime, social issues, sports etc, ours has
always been a lucrative profession. The moment you decide to review cars and
bikes, you are at the mercy of OEMs (the companies that manufacture vehicles).
You have got to please them and in turn they will shower you with goodies of
all kinds…expensive gifts, foreign travel, travel by business class in airplanes, stay in ultra expensive hotels, good food, plenty of wine… If that is
the norm with OEMs, why not make sure every auto journalist in India gets his
fair share of travel, gifts, cars and bikes to keep for years together. No,
these were always the privilege of a handful who had mastered the art of
cozying up to the OEMs. The rest were like jokers in a circus.
could have imagined that a virus from out of the blue would knock the sails of
this sinful nexus between OEMs and the chosen few auto journalists. With air
travel banned, expensive hotels either shut or converted into make-shift covid
hospitals, and no one ready to risk meeting anybody, the pampered Indian auto
journalist must be suffering from massive withdrawal symptoms. It is a massive hit in their solar plexus. These privileged
bounty hunters, as I would like to call them, are now with their families in
their ordinary homes or farm houses as the case may be, wearing silly masks and
keeping their mouths shut. For the last two months they have not visited a
foreign land, neither have they stepped into a large plane to sit in those
extra large business class seats. None of them may have received a gift all
wrapped up in colourful paper and bright red ribbons. Life must be so lonely
for these blokes.
covid disease is there to stay in some form or another. There is no guarantee
that once a vaccine comes, there will be reason to celebrate. The virus has
different forms. The vaccine may be able to tackle the covid-19, but what about
a covid-20 or 21 or a 22? It could be a lot deadlier. I feel sorry for the
Indian auto journalists who have been so used to everything free and rich. Many
of the upright journalists have been sidelined for long. Perhaps at least now
the OEMs need to introspect and think of ways to be fair to all journalists.
Every qualified auto journalist should get an opportunity to get behind the
wheels of a car or on the seat of a new two-wheeler to review it.
OEMs are bleeding, sales have come crashing down, and it is time for these OEMs
to play fair. Making masks and ventilators eternally is not the way out. It is
time to treat honest Indian auto journalists with a lot more dignity.
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