Saturday, June 25, 2011

Little Walk and the Myth of the SUV


One of my resolutions for the year 2011 was that I will calculate my carbon footprint, and start seriously working on minimizing it by at least 10% by the next year. And every time I walk nearby a gas guzzling SUV, I remind myself (strongly, sometimes) that she's not for me. I am not against SUVs or for that matter any automobile, as long as it transports you from point A to point B, in a reasonable time causing minimum nuisance to pedestrians and fellow drivers on the roads. My experience in the National Capital Region has been otherwise since quite some time now and hence this decision.

I'm happy being a pedestrian and am seriously planning to be so, if things will go by as desired. Also since the public transport system in the Capital has changed for good compared to how it was a decade ago, I see no apparent reason why I shouldn't use public transport. Add to it the volume and randomness of vehicular traffic one finds on the city roads, I feel rather relieved that I am able to put my energy and attention to more productive things and let professionals drive the giants on wheels.

Recently someone asked this funny-sounding question in a TV forum as to how many of us planning to buy SUVs (or sports utility vehicles, for the uninitiated) are actually sporty? How many of us take these monsters to dust and dirt where they actually belong? How much have we tested the true abilities of these hunks created to traverse rocky terrains and muddy riversides? Not many, in the Indian context. Here in the city, I come across several such people who won't flip an eye before buying that expensive, gas guzzling SUV and take enormous pride in showing her off on the streets and honk and swear when they don't have enough space to park. What is stopping them from taking their muscle cars to dirt where it belongs? I call it the "SUV Dilemma."

Something similar happened to me recently while I was preparing for a trip to the great outdoors. Starting this year, I am dedicating the rest of my life to travelling of all sorts - cultural, adventure, historic, you name it. And while planning my first serious trek to the Lower Himalayas, I was about to pick up a pair of trekking/hiking shoes. As the trip planners explained it to me (and I picked up from several spaces on the Web) treks can be dusty, wet, dirty, slippery and trying. So you need footwear that can withstand it all. 
The pair of shoes I picked up was great. I simply couldn't resist the feel when I slipped my feet in. Looks beautiful, yet durable, muscular with the right kind of grip and feels wonderful to put on... what else do you need? Another new member of the family... and as tradition goes I christened them Little Walk, with Little Bea's approval. I was (and still am) happy and proud to take them out to places on weekends (even as part of Friday dressing in the Office). And then came the D-day. I asked this question myself several times while I was packing my bags: Do I need to take Little Walk to the woods? Of course they are designed for that, and it would rightly serve their purpose. Something was pulling me back, and I finally faced the reality: I can't take them to the dust and dirt. They are objects of my affection and I've spent quite a sum on them (on footwear standards). I finally understood the internal conflict that an SUV owner might feel while wanting to take his hunk to the dirt.

I still believe in the green way of life, and shall continue efforts to reduce my carbon footprint on the planet. For trekking I use the older and more rugged shoes now.  And Little Walk continues to be my weekend walkers. 

Have you come across the "SUV Dilemma" in your life in anything other than automobiles? Do kindly share your thoughts in the "Comments" column below.
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