20 December, 2008

Honking, Drivers and the Law of the Jungle

The Honking
PAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM…went the horn from the vehicle behind me and was irritated. It was a SUV with yellow plates (commercial taxi service) and he went honking. I ignored him. The signal had just turned red and traffic was packed bumper to bumper. It was not at me that the horn was directed, he was just generally honking. The signal wouldn’t turn green for another 2 minutes and that’s all the wait would be..all of 120 seconds.

I thought to myself and wondered, that who does that driver think he is ???…Moses... ??? That the light would turn green for him and the traffic like the Nile would part, all because he honked? As if on cue every 20 seconds he let out one PAMMMMM PAMMMMM.

A well maintained yellow and black cab with an old Sardarji at the wheel was parked next to him. Spotlessly clean was his white turban and the white shirt-trouser of the owner who drives (the employed ones wear Khaki). He calmly just tapped the window of the driver who was honking. “Beta aap driveri me aaney ke pehaley bandwaaley thhey kya? Politely he asked. The honker caught off guard by the polite query instinctively replied “Nahi to” to which came the rejoinder “To beta abhi kyu jaana chahatey ho wahan, itni practice ki zaroorat nahi hai. Ye haarn zaroorat padney par hi bajana hota hai. Dekho sabhi rukey hai". The elderly driver had on his face a smile while the eyes had a steely glint. The honking stopped and I burst out laughing and looked at the Sardarji.He just nodded with twinkling eyes. The signal turned green and we were on our way. Honestly there is little use for the horn unless it is really needed and most of the times it is not.

Indian Drivers
But then we are Indians and we shall honk and keep honking. Doesn’t matter whether we are passing by hospitals, schools or residential areas, be it any time of the day or night , we shall still honk. We have vehicles and vehicles have horns. Every Indian behind a wheel is born with the divine right of way. Rules are for others. On traffic signals we shall stop on or even beyond pedestrian crossings.We shall always endeavour even when the signal is red to gain ground, inch by inch, to the other side, no matter if we block half the road for the ongoing/incoming traffic.
We shall yell at others, choice swear words, loudly, almost to test the power of our lungs. Sound pollution you say, what the heck is that? That’s some imported nonsensical idea. We shall cut and weave through without signaling and parade this as a skill. So what if the other drivers are at risk, contemptuously we shall mock their sissyness and call them amateurs. Anyone overtaking us we shall treat it as a personal affront and declare war. We wont give way even to an ambulance carrying patients when we are ahead and if behind it, shall shadow it using its right of way to our advantage.Women drivers shall remain the constant butt of our jokes as if men came out of the womb holding steering wheels, with their flailing baby feet on the clutch and accelerator. If we are caught breaking rules by the fine upholders of the road safety law, we shall exhibit our finesse in palming off currency notes slickly. The lesser the denomination that we can get away with,the sharper we are. Its not considered improper to later even boast about it.

Law of the Jungle
Its not limited to the drivers, even the law, the traffic cops, have some quaint traits. They are never present where they are supposed to be. If there is a traffic snarl our vigilant authorities largely are conspicuous by their absence. They are skilled hunters and are on a hunt. They are not the organizers who would sort out the situation and manage the traffic. That’s just idealistic theory. It is useful strictly for inside classrooms in police schools, for passing the requisite examinations. Outside it is a very different world they sagely tell you. Practically the cop-hunter blends into the scenery behind an electric pole just off the signal or a bend and pounces on eager victims.Fresh game ( read drivers who would be unlucky to get caught) would actually drive upto them unknowingly. Both the offender and inhibitor are least bothered about the actual infringement, its just a game, somebody wins so somebody has to lose.

When the trap is sprung and the victim snared then the strategy of the slipped note is initiated. Impractical victims would want receipts.Poor naive souls. The cop-hunter then puts across the honey trap, why pay 200 when you can get away with a warning? No demand is numerically ever stated, one has to just understand.Paternally you are chided, that’s not the way to drive. One should be more careful.If the underlying message is not understood, again the hapless innocent would be asked " Pavti fadoo kya, soch lo?"They are generous to leave you an escape route. Well, the victim may be connected higher up and hence along with proper protocol the cop-hunter's posterior is also strategically covered. Once the deal is concluded favourably he may even bid you a smiling farewell too. Its bonhomie time once again. The game goes on...

The driving license alone is just not sufficient. In the veritable jungles which are the Indian roads one needs to also master these special soft skills that go way beyond driving.

A post script for the others
There are good drivers with excellent road sense, consideration to law and civic sense. There are also honest cops who do their jobs diligently & well. But the whole system is so geared, that its weight is leaning on one to bypass it. Sooner or later one ends up doing just that.

Till then drive safely, dont honk unnecessarily, wear your seatbelts/helmets, avoid taking calls while driving and if you must then either park on the side or use hands free devices. Most importantly do not drink and drive. Do remember on the roads its not just you, any slip-up can also endanger others.


dotcomgirl said...

Well written and funny too! Earlier I used to stay right next to the Highway and there was no peace even at night. The honking and that too exactly like that Sardarji said... all in horrible tunes and tones used to keep us awake at night. Nowadays people try and observe this "no honking day" once a year I think. I dont think its of much use.... after all people have to follow it. And if you can follow it for a day then why not always?

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

;-) it certainly can get to you navigating on the roads of today and if u stayed near the highway it would have been terrible.

We stay near a club and people spilling out at all hours honking automobiles is a pain that one lives with.

dotcomgirl said...

Have posted something on my blog... u said ur eager!!