Friday, September 13, 2013

Road Rash!!!


I never liked riding a bike. It always made me too tired – the traffic, the noise, the dust and the pain of driving were major factors behind it. Hence, I was always reluctant to learn driving a car. Until the family pressure almost choked me, I did not buy one either.
To my surprise, I have actually liked driving a four-wheeler and have taken driving like boredom to a corporate job. Even though initial days were quite edgy – banged my car on its first morning, jammed traffic for almost half an hour, took the car to service center for repair almost regularly during first six months but, thanks to almighty, it all has come to a steady state. Not that I do not get any hiccups now but I am more confident driving.
I used to believe that traffic is equally bad anywhere you go to in India but my last trip to Ahmedabad broke this belief. I am yet to see a city worse than Ahmedabad when it comes to this regard. In fact, I found it so scary that I have dropped my average speed of driving by a couple of notches after my last visit. However, other cities I have seen are not far behind Ahmedabad.
While CEAT, in an attempt to sell its products, claims that road is full of idiots, I would like to stop at – road is full of drivers. Drivers are of different kinds. Here are a few of them to have caught my eyes. Oh yes, before I start giving my side of the story, I would like to state the standard disclaimer – please try finding some sense in this attempt at humor and sarcasm. Any sentiments hurt are deeply regretted.
 
Women Car Drivers – At the risk of being termed a male chauvinist, I would like to say that women like seeking questions more than the answers. They like that quizzical look on your face. The scariest question, “Darling, am I looking fat” is the biggest example of my theory. No man can answer this question correctly. The fear of eating bitter gourd in lunch, dinner and the lunch next day stops them from telling the truth. Hence, with an extreme quizzical look on their faces, men try manufacturing the answer, which might avoid them from the wrath of bitter gourd.
This phenomenon of continuously asking questions is reflected in women’s driving too. Someone said that in order to improve, one must keep questioning himself/herself. Women take this advice very seriously.
“I’ve given the indicator to turn right, should I turn right? However, there is lot of space on the left side, should I turn left? What about the road ahead that is full of empty space? Shouldn’t I be driving straight?” is what women often think while driving. If you are driving behind such a car, I would like to wish you best of luck. Luck is what saves me on such occasions.
Women jump as high as cloud nine if they come across a situation, which gives them options. Because it again gives them a question to ask – which one should I choose.
Have you ever seen a woman in front of an empty parking lot? Well, I have seen such. With five vacant parking lots in front of her, it took her full two minutes to decide where she should park her car. At the end of those two minutes, she decided to bunk those five slots and parked it somewhere else.
Women do not like anyone passing any comments about their driving skills. They just hate it. Once I told a female friend of mine who was driving, when she turned left without giving indicator and did not change the gear when it was absolutely necessary, “You are an uncultured driver”
“All you men are same. You cannot digest the fact that a woman can drive and drive so well”. In other words, she wanted to term me a male chauvinist. She may have wanted to add one more word to the term “male chauvinist” but I would avoid writing it here.
Actually, we are male chauvinist. No matter how much we deny, we all are – especially when it comes to driving.
 
Street Hawks – Next set of drivers are of a different gender with two wheels lesser than the first set. I am not sure if they should be called drivers or riders. For the sake of my poor intellect, let us call them drivers.
Street hawks believe that the city they live in is Gotham and they are all Batmen. They also believe that police is chasing Batman, them, and Batman is running away on his super fancy nitro-boost attached bike. They just drive, or ride, or give jitters to everyone else who happens to be on the road. For them traffic does not exist, forget about the traffic rules. They are often in state of Nirvana where the surrounding world does not exist.
As a kid is always on a lookout for chocolates, Street Hawks are always hunting for a gap. Wherever they find it, they take a turn – damn the indicators, damn the side mirror, damn the others. They often stare at others for not leaving sufficient gap for them. They do not believe in the concept that not every gap can be sufficient to drive and even if there is a sufficient gap available, it is not necessary that one must drive through it.
Quite often Street Hawks do wear helmets. Nevertheless, the purpose of helmets is not to protect their head, which does need a fixing, but to hold the mobile phone so that they could let the world know about their bravery. Quite often Street Hawks, like their own Robin, have a pillion rider sitting with them whose sole job is to make funny faces, give threatening scare and hurl abuses at others.
If you ever come across a Street Hawk on the road, please stop immediately and let them pass. Remember, he is the Batman trying to save Gotham. Problem is that you may not be able to move at all because Gotham is full of Batmen. Irony is that even with so many Batmen, Gotham keeps burning.
 
Talibani Titali (TT) – A gentle reminder – pun is intended everywhere. First, let me dedicate a song to this group -
 
panchhi banu udati phirun mast gagan men
aaj main aazaad hun duniya ke chaman men        
    
Next kind is what I fondly call Talibani Titali (TT). This kind is of a different gender than Street Hawks but they are quite like Cat Women. These are Cheekas (Chics) driving their Scooty’s/Activas/Other in the similar way as Street Hawks do and grinning at the world with the saying – Why should boys have all the fun?
For some strange reasons, this group like to dress up as is they are living in Taliban’s regime. This group has their entire body covered in different form of clothing. If women in Taliban regime are allowed to show, nothing but their eyes to the world outside, this group covers even them – by wearing shades, which almost covers their entire face. The face is anyhow covered with different layering of a floral scarf. With gloves covering hands until elbow, only body part one can see of Cheekas in this group is, assuming they are wearing sleeveless Kurtas, are the biceps.
I hope you get the logic behind Taliban in TT’s name.
They drive like butterflies – free of fear and pressure of being the cynosure. When they drive straight, they will always give a feeling that they are about to take a turn. When they take a right turn, they would immediately turn left and drive straight. When they take a left turn, they may take a left turn or drive straight or take a right turn or stop immediately, stare at you, push their vehicle with the help of their legs for a few meters, restart it and drive again. See, they are quite like butterflies. As a butterfly spreads its wings while flying, one can see this group often spreading their legs while driving – maybe they feel like butterflies too.
Alas, Gotham has so many Batmen and Cat Women yet it keeps burning.
 
The Cabbies – If traffic has pushed you to extreme left of the road and you find yourself so close to the shops at the left that you might fear hitting them, there will always be a car driving through between you and the shops at the left. If you try noting down the number of that car, ten out of nine times you would find the number written in yellow background. If it is not, you can be rest assured that the number is written incorrectly.
Cabbies have god-gifted ability to drive through the smallest of gap – sometimes even Street Hawks cannot do so. They have this unimaginable ability to drive through the worst of traffic jams. They are all India’s answer to Michael Schumacher. It is a different matter than the answer does not reach him. I am sure of ever Schumacher happens to drive on Indian roads; he would surrender all his awards immediately, shoot himself in shame and would like to be reincarnated as an Indian cabbie so that he could become a better driver in his next birth.
Cabbies have such talent.
Do you know the kind of Cabbie I like most? The one has written at the back of his car – “In case of rash driving, please complain at XXXX”. I have never tried calling at any such number but would like to know if anyone has. Reason behind me not calling at such number is the fear – what if that is driver’s number. What if driver promises to address the issue, asks me my position, comes back and drives over me. I would rather take my frustration out by honking.
 
Common-Man – This category covers most of us if not all of us. People from both genders, or maybe all three, belong to this group but I would keep referring to every member as “he” – call it choosing this option for the ease of writing or call me a male chauvinist.
A common-man can the most dangerous driver. Because when he is driving, his mind is somewhere else. He is thinking about different things - the tiff he had with his partner, how crappy his boss is, soaring prices, war in Syria, how ruling party is looting his beloved country; his opposition party is allowing that loot, how it is all chaos at the roads, how he has to manage driving on almost non-existent roads, how he can do nothing but honk to take his frustration out. He also thinks how not just his vehicle but the entire country should be driven by him – the common-man. Alas, he cannot do anything but pray and try to drive safe.
Common-man is like the Cashier Jack Nicholson talks about in movie Anger Management. Common-man is just building up that anger in his silence and I am sure, one day he will get up and shoot everyone, take the steering/handle in his own hands and drive this country.
I am sure that day is not far away or at least I hope that day is not far away.
Until that arrives, I would like to wish all of you a very happy and safe drive.

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