Do cars have feelings?

It’s difficult to understand why a car’s behaviour changes after a change of owners

Many people believe that there is a soul in all living things and some even believe that there is a spirit in inanimate things like mountains, rocks or streams. Many people also develop such attachments to their cars that they believe that they too have souls. Some people consider one of their cars to be an angel that never gives any trouble but finds another to be a devil that gives constant problems and difficulties.

Sometimes two identical cars come off the same assembly line and delivered by the same dealers in nearly identical conditions behave very differently. If it is not about the 10,000 parts of a car what makes them so different?

Sometimes the behaviour of a car changes after a change of owners. A car that has been a real sweetheart for the few years that it had been with an original owner begins to behave badly with its new one as if to say that it is angry to be abandoned by its first owner and is unhappy with the new one. It could be that the car had been on its last legs and the new owner was just unlucky to buy it just as it was about to collapse but many drivers feel that one car is always a friend while the other is a constant bother. It is not also about reliability alone. One car seems to have a cheerful spirit and can effortlessly race up or down twisty hill roads while its twin coughs, splutters, screeches rocks and rolls alarmingly despite the ministrations of even the best mechanics. If it is not the mechanical what makes them different?

People can also get very attached to their cars and will be most reluctant to part with them even when they are ready to fall apart. Many older people are almost in tears when their cars cannot meet pollution norms or find it difficult to get parts. Perhaps their feelings affect their cars in the same way that the spiritual feeling of worshippers can make a temple, church or other place of worship feel

sacred. We can understand the feelings of attachment with living things like a dog or a horse but the sentiment

towards a car is much more difficult to understand.

New buyers instinctively know this and do not want to take chances so they often buy on an auspicious date and at an auspicious time and take their new car to a temple or other place of worship to get the blessings of a priest who readily smears a tika or sprinkles holy water as a benediction. They can also go to great lengths to get an auspicious registration number. Imaginary evil spirits are also chased away with the smoke of burned chilies or running over a small lemon. If their car behaves well they often believe that these prayers and rituals do work.

Some people are however unlucky and can never forgive their car for some early failure. Despite all the efforts of the car companies, their dealers or engineers they keep experiencing some malfunctions and are never satisfied. As they lose confidence they keep abusing their car that seems to retaliate by giving even more trouble until the owner has had enough and sells off the car in exasperation. Paradoxically new buyer often has no problems at all. It is therefore not a mechanical issue — something in the feelings of the seller or buyer that seem to affect their cars. Science will not solve this riddle but we have all experienced how human sentiments can affect mechanical objects.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist