Saleh Al Shaibany –
It was not until the car made a U-turn that I saw the driver was an old friend. He slowed down to wave at me and then sped down the residential road. I watched him braking hard at the four-way junction, smoking coming out underneath the wheel. He made another U-turn and drove back.
He stopped the car just inches away from me, threatening to maul me down in a mock display. He walked out of the car beaming widely and patted the machine on the bonnet. He bought a new car and he asked me to go for a ride with him. I was not really keen but seeing his excited face, I thought it was wise not to disappoint him. He told me he bought it in a special Ramadhan offer and what a bargain he had.
The car had all the luxurious trimmings, from leather seats to the navigational system equipped with the GPS. He would not have bought it if it was not on a special scheme, he explained. He made it sound as if he could not really afford it. I did not want to disappoint him that these Ramadhan offers are nothing but gimmicks dealers use to make you think you are getting a car at a cut price.
I did not have the heart to tell him so as he kept explaining the free service, gifts and long warranty that came with the price. But he should have known better. Anyway, I thought if it
made him happy, then let him enjoy his new toy.
After he had explained all the features, he suddenly went quiet. For the next five minutes, we were just travelling past the brightly lit roads in silence. His excitement had lasted just a quarter of an hour. I suspected that it was the money that he spent on the car finally got him back to reality. I had to force it out of him to break the silence because it was getting a bit awkward.
“How much did you pay for it?”
He told me and by then the sparkle had left his face. The five-year instalments were like a mini-mortgage and he had not told his wife how much he was paying for it. With the new academic year approaching in less than two months, he was also
faced with educational bills of his two children.
I told him it was not too late to return the car. He would lose some cash but he would not be crippled by a long-term debt. The showroom would be delighted to take it back since they would profit from the car twice.
They would just clean it up and sell it at the original price after “clocking back” the mileage. They do that all the time. I checked with him a couple of days later. He returned the car and he lost ten per cent of his money in just four days. But he was happy.
He is back driving his seven-year old four-wheel drive which he had traded-in for the new car that nearly imprisoned him with a five-year-old financial sentence. By the end of this holy month, quite a few people like him would be counting the damage of being swept away by a new gleaming machine on wheels that they don’t really need.
As one elderly person once told me, if you need to treat yourself during Ramadhan, just buy a new praying mat. It doesn’t sound exciting, but sometimes the divine thought takes your mind away from a financial disaster.