Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Deliberations of a Delhi Driver

This is for all of us who think that Delhi Drivers are “strange” to put it politely, or just “f**k**g crazy” to put it realistically.  Delhi drivers are just like everyone else, and if we aren’t, we change non-Delhi-ites to our point of view. If you have lived and driven in this city long enough you would have seen this in action – the mass movemen...t towards freedom – freedom from red lights, lanes, silence, and consideration.

I take the liberty to write this from a male’s point of view, as, we all know that females can’t drive, and heaven forbid if she does, she drives like a man!

I drive without a care in the world.  Mind you, I care for myself; it’s others that I do not care for.

What else do you expect, when I learnt the joys of driving on my father’s lap, him secured by a seat belt and me secured by the glue of paternal affection, sitting on his lap? Many-a-times the movement of the road lulled me to sleep, and it still does when I am in a car.  So if you see me swerve, either it is because I am reliving my early childhood years or because of the woman driver somewhere in the city – ahead of me or two lanes away, or just thinking of taking the car out of the garage.  You can’t blame me, can you?

As I grew up, I learnt the virtue of multi-tasking as my father drove with a cigarette in one hand and a phone in the other. He juggled the clutch and steering wheel with such speed and accuracy that I believe that he could have been born to acrobat parents. Added to this was his ability to use all his senses while driving, reading an SMS while smoking, cursing an old lady crossing the road too slowly while shifting to a higher gear, stopping just as long as it took to spit a stream of paan while speeding to beat the next red light, and farting / belching to relieve any pressure that driving can cause in a city like Delhi.

When I became a “little man”, my father, oh so generously, gave me his car keys and sent me out for a drive.  I built immense spinal flexibility, stretching my muscles to reach the pedals while keeping my eyes above the center of the steering wheel.  The need for speed trumped safety, then, as it does now. As I drove, I received the respect of people jumping aside as I drove thru narrow neighborhood streets at speeds that are reserved for highways. Why do I need a brake, I ask, when pedestrians so generously move aside?

On my fourteenth birthday, I took the girl of my dreams out on our first date.  Our parents, and yes her parents knew too, blessed us as we left in dad’s new car – sleeker and faster than the one he had the year before, which itself was faster than the one before that. Nothing exciting came out of my first date other than us drawing the startled eyes of the grandmas’ of the neighborhood as I broke a few pots that had strayed on to the edge of
the road, and chipped the paving stones as I took a nice sharp turn. By chance, I looked at the rearview mirror as I roared out of the gates and caught an elderly gentleman saluting my driving with his cane raised over his head, waving it vigorously as a mark of respect.

By the time I reached college, I had mastered the art of driving with a cigarette in one hand and a phone in the other, like my dad.  Dad had only taught me the mundane way to drive; I pushed the envelope – or should I say my girlfriend did this by nipping my ear while I was concentrating on driving.  The sudden changing of lanes is not my fault, after all a pat on the thigh or a kiss does cause muscles to react. Other drivers on the road should know that spasms cause cars to swerve, and give me a wide berth.  Any dents and scratches they got as a result of this are definitely their fault
and not mine!

When I was in college I added liquid refreshments to my repertoire of senses that need to be used while driving.  Dispense with the glass I was told. Real men drink straight from the bottle. And don’t you know beer is for babies.  Men drink rum / vodka / scotch straight from the bottle and drive.  So much easier and hassle free. And when you are as high as a kite, the car takes on the form of an aerial craft, floating over dividers, pavements, bushes, pedestrians, cows, and anything they pretty much feel like going over. Roll over James Bond, I don’t need Q, I’ve got my dad’s car!

So at 8:30am as I weave thru’ crazy traffic to get to office after a night of partying, with a hangover that sounds like Diwali bombs in my head, blowing my horn to warn people to get out of my way, speaking with my buddy on the phone, smoking a cigarette to ease the tension, I ask myself, what’s wrong with the way I drive?

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