After living an international life with one hell of a transport system and not driving one’s own vehicle for five and a half months, one tends to have doubts about one’s adaptability with respect to the commuting back home. The only culture shock I had on getting back to India was – the way people were driving. But one gotta do, what one gotta do, since there are no other alternatives. It was with much apprehension that I decided to get into the hot seat (after being used to that being the navigator seat in Finland). I had not forgotten driving per se, but all the aggression was absolutely gone. I had suddenly turned into a very tame (read timid in Delhi driving parlance) driver for some reason. People overtaking me from every possible gap left between a divider and a road and honking away to glory as if they were the band wallahs in a baraat, had absolutely no effect on me including that of irritation. I still drove at my speed (within speed limit), in my lane, giving way only when it was right to do so. Everyone rushing away to some destination, strangely didn’t leave me with a me-too-hurry-too complex. I had even forgotten the oh-so-delhi habit of flashing the lights while driving. “Wow”, I thought, “what all can change with a change in lifestyle”, especially since earlier, I was probably exactly the way others were now.
But this dream was too good to last. Very soon, I came across some hoodlums driving with both indicators on, opening doors “mid-flight”, behaving like they were in a spaceship and as if they would trample upon the mere earthlings who happened to crawl unknowingly in their way. As if this extra terrestrial behaviour wasn’t enough, they even had some weird stares and gestures to add to that whole drama-company effect (one only requires to be female for evoking that). That did it. Any self respecting Bhartiya nari would have chatao-ed them some “dhool” and that is exactly what I did by zooming ahead and leaving them with some “dhool mitti” on their face. With that came the end of my barely achieved gajgamini gait in the driving world. Sigh. Life isn’t a rat race. It’s a car race.
For some reason, there are much bigger vehicles on the road now than the predominantly smaller ones earlier. Where did all the Innovas and the Taveras suddenly emerge from, in this “bhainsa” avatar of the car world? Even if they were seating 10 Amir Khan’s inside, they don’t give my mousy Maruti a run for its money. Did I say it was a car race? It’s a rat race, alright. With my rat scurrying faster than the “bhainsa” could even snort. On the very first day of keeping my eyes on the road and hands upon the wheel, I came across four splattered dogs, somewhat as I had expected (though four was quite alarming). I don’t think they were on a mass suicide drive. It must be those driving the bhainsa in cowboy ishtyle, barely able to see the ground beneath their hooves.
Within some days, I realised that the traffic situation had worsened so much in the areas that I frequented, that driving rules have changed altogether. Driving was merely a ‘closing-in-on-the-2-nanometer-gap-left-by-someone-else’ game now. And you had to be superfast at it to reduce that 2.5 hour commute by a nanosecond. Getting stuck in a traffic jam is as frequent as coughing (don’t forget that pollution which has made Delhi the asthma capital) now. Forget the handicaps of a sedentary lifestyle, my feet get more exercise than they can handle; with a clutch-brake routine at the rate of 10/sec. And unfortunately a real life traffic jam isn’t even half as fun as a reel life one, where the heroine can at least get out and flirt with a dashing dude on the top of the car or something. And all those FM channels that specialise in featuring ads, need a lesson or two on what is called “airing-a-MUSIC-program”. Sigh..Delhi driving is driving me desi alright.