On the Road
- Anjuly Mathai
Story Dated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 17:48 hrs IST
I started driving recently. Initially, I was gobsmacked by the system of anarchy that seemed to prevail on Indian roads. How does it not lead to an endless series of collisions and Big Bang part 2? I wondered. After almost a month of driving in a Tier 1 city, I’ve realized something. A well-oiled machinery like Indian traffic cannot work without rules. But, like the Constitution of the UK, many of these rules are uncodified. Miraculously, every Indian seems to be born with an inherent sense of them so that it’s not often that you see a blatant violation.
1)Always overtake – Overtaking, preferably from the left, is to an Indian driver what Bush jokes were to a stand-up comedian – a sacred principle of survival. A young ingénue is taught to overtake before he’s taught to reverse or change gears. If you see a vehicle in front of you, stepping on the accelerator must become a Pavlovian response.
2)Make minimal use of the Brake – Brakes serve the same role as the Indian President – they’re strictly for ceremonial purposes only to be used in the event of an Emergency. In contrast, ample use of the accelerator is not just advisable but mandatory.
The accelerator must especially be used in the event of such exigencies:
- If there’s more than two inches between you and the vehicle in front of you
- If a pedestrian is trying to cross the road
-If a traffic light is on the cusp of turning red
3)Make maximum use of the horn – Honking-For-No-Reason must be a habit inculcated in the driver at an early stage
4)Always expect the Expected – Namely:
- If you’re about to turn left a two-wheeler will immediately zoom past you from the left scaring the living daylights out of you
-All autorickshaw drivers, when they pass each other, must and will exchange pleasantries – the rising fuel prices, what they had for breakfast, traffic blocks in different parts of the city. They’re also immune to honking.
5)Learn to swear – As a beginner who refuses to travel above forty kilometres per hour and is genetically pre-disposed toward avoiding No Parking signs, I have only to roll down my window to be barraged by multi-lingual versions of the word ‘moron’. But the first time you feel like yelling at the incompetent nincompoop who stops at a sidewalk to speak on the cell phone (what self-respecting Indian stops at a sidewalk to speak on the cell phone?) is the first time you’re suffused with a liberating sense of belonging. The patriotism fanned by a homogenising brand of desi road rage. Long live Indian traffic.