Sunday, September 11, 2016

Life Style Wars and Audi Side View Mirror Conscientious Theft

(Audi Side view mirror theft in Delhi, CCTV grab)

If someone wrenches away a part of my car (though I do not have one at present) I would feel bad. Any part of anything that we use is also a part of our own existence; our own body and soul. That’s why breaking ins in locked houses cause a lot of distress to people other than the loss of the valuables. I do not dare to talk about physical violations on both men and women by boors and authorities. It must be scarring people for the lives. However, in this small write up I plan to play the devil’s advocate. My trigger is one of the news items that I happened to read in today’s newspaper.

In South Delhi, within ten minutes seven high end cars lost their side view mirrors. The CCTV grabs show the auto-borne thieves striking within the gap of a few minutes in different places and wrecking havoc on the high cars like Audi, by taking their side view mirrors. A call made to the Audi showroom by one of the owners (of the cars) brought the prices of these mirrors into day light. A pair of it costs Rs.2.5 lakhs. It is a real loss for the owners. South Delhi being the rich part of the capital city often faces vandalism of different sorts. Taking away the car parts is not new to Delhi. Cannibalizing the stolen cars is an acknowledged grey market business and the authorities have not done much towards stopping it. My concern is not that.

 (An Audi Car)

If a pair of side view mirrors (in that case any costly part of the car which cannot be locked away as it constitutes the external functions including the beautification of the car) that costs Rs.2.5 lakhs is stolen then we have to understand that there is a market elsewhere for it. Also commonsense tells us that the consumers of such stolen goods cannot be using low end cars for adding of anything like an Audi’s side view mirror to a low end car or an SUV would suddenly bring the public attention including that of the Police. Hence, we deduce the fact that the end users of these stolen goods are those people who use similar brand cars elsewhere, who in turn have lost their spare parts like side view mirrors.

A thief does not steal a car part just for fun. Yes, when it comes to the stealing of car logos (like the universally identifiable logos of the Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Ford and so on) it is done at times for the heck of it. Hear the words of Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize winning Turkish Novelist. In his new novel, ‘A Strangeness in My Mind’ as the story progresses, Pamuk makes his protagonist Mevlut talk these words, “You should not park here, the neighbourhood kids will steal the side view mirrors,” said Mevlut. “They’ll even take away the Ford Logo...They sell them to the spare parts dealers up the hill or wear them as necklaces. If it had been a Mercedes, they would have ripped the sign out long ago.” (Page 266).

(Orhan Pamuk, author)

I need not explain further why thieves take away high end car parts as Pamuk has explained it well in his novel. If it happens in Turkey, definitely it should be happening in any part of the world. I believe it is a fall out of the high end consumerism. As more and more people are taking the risk of buying high end cars in order to live a ‘different’ life, a parallel grey market is also developing along with it. What Arundhati Roy calls as ‘lifestyle war’ is what is making this new art of pilfering a rampant business. Anything that is mechanical has and needs spare parts. And all the mechanical devices are created for enhancing the life styles wars. That means the spare parts thus pilfered become the weapons of the new war and the thieves (they in Delhi are identified as Kaan Thod Gang, the ear severing gang, as they specialize in taking away the side view mirrors) the foot soldiers of the new war fare.

(Arundhati Roy, author and activist)

As I mentioned before, anybody would feel bad if something is stolen from their possession. But a car that worth more than a crore and its functional as well as decorative parts cost Rs.2.5 lakhs (which in fact is more than the price of a car that is offered by certain companies) automatically carries such risks in the public spaces. I am not supporting the theft but what I want to underline is the fact that the life style warfare would create its side characters who would always try to thwart the main focus of the war by creating parallel war zones which could produce profit for them and in a conscientious manner. The gang of thieves stopping a family in the middle of the night in a deserted patch of the road and raping the female members of the family is fundamentally different from the gangs that steal spare parts of the high end cars. The petty thieves who pick pockets or snatch chains are also different from the thieves who strike at the high end cars. They are like parallel operators in a life style war/market, whose acts are eventually legitimized by the grey market operators who further push the same spare parts to those high end car owners who had lost the spare parts in similar operations.

(a bracelet )

This kind of stealing is a conscience game. The thieves know that the owners of the cars are liable to be pilfered because they have excess money that’s why they buy such high end cars. They also know that most of the people who afford these kinds of cars use money earned by illegal means. Hence, the thieves think that stealing them is also a part of their social commitment to redistribute their money or property in a perverted way; by stealing or damaging their property. They find some kind of activism in it. While we say that any kind of stealing is a criminal act, the high end stealing always has a charm that’s why in the popular narratives the diamond thieves are always given the halo of a hero. There is a lot of skill and planning to do such theft; it involves smartness and agility. They are backed up by the invisible conscientious support of the populace that thinks that the owners of the high end cars should be punished in some way.

I will close this small essay by recounting a story told me by an artist friend. A man who was walking along the road stepped on a golden bracelet. He picked it up and looked around. After so much of deliberation this man went to a goldsmith and assessed the value of it. Once he realized that the bracelet was original, he thought of selling it and buying a chain for himself with the money. He did it. After that he kept on asking himself whether he did the right thing or not. He also thought of the person who had lost it and the pain he should be undergoing. So he went to a guru and asked him whether he did the right thing or not. Guru told him that he could wear the golden chain without any prick of conscience because a person who wears a golden bracelet or anklet must be a show off and he definitely must not have any financial liabilities for himself or in his family. So the bracelet was a part of the life style war for the owner of it. Hence, having it accidentally and converting it into a golden chain need not necessarily be an act of theft, the Guru assured. The man went away happily. 

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