Because you’re reading this, I assume you’re an actual person. And because you are an actual person, I assume you’ve got actual friends. Unless of course you’re Donald Trump, in which case you bribe people to say they’re your friends. Friends exist to make life whimsical.
Have you ever been to a police station? I’ve visited there. Twice. The first time it was nothing more than to report loss of a driving licence. We went there driving my friend’s car to report the loss of the very document that allowed him to drive. I love the irony in that!
On the outside, it wasn’t a cared-for station building. Inside, it was even worse. We very politely asked about the process of getting an official statement registered and were directed to a portly constable sitting disinterested in matters around. A few feet from him were the cells. We dared not look towards them. Only, we did — and saw some hostile faces. You can’t imagine the rapidity with which we turned back towards the cop.
The entire process of getting the statement registered seemed like we were facing a guilt-ridden interview for entry to hell. Motivated by my immensely likeable personality, I tried to induce humour by cracking a random joke on something the constable asked. He ‘politely’ told to shut up. So I did. And cried within.
We were proper law abiding citizens. Boys who’d just turned adults — 18 — and were celebrating the freedom to drive lawfully. In retrospect, it seems strange that we’d gone there to get my friend’s own loss registered, but stood there meek to the extreme. But that’s true for most people. The moment there’s any agency of law enforcement involved in any situation — even that favouring you — the average citizen becomes very ductile. There’s a fear in our heads.
Fear works, you know. I’ve spoken to many motorists and most times it was fear that made them buckle up or get the helmet on — fear of being caught and fined. What’s habit now was born out of fear.
We adapt excellently and work efficiently when things are enforced on us and there’s an element of fear involved. Look at what’s happening right now — we are living in an enforced lockdown due to the fear of a) getting infected by the virus, and b) being penalised. Which is great because there’s order in the society and we’re devising new ways to keep things going in restricted environments. We’re adapting and evolving.
That’s the beauty of human beings — we are infinitely adjusting. And that brings me to driving on Indian roads. It’s sheer miracle how we go about our business of driving in an environment that’s devoid of any road etiquette. There’s no formula to drive on our roads. Every city is different and has varying levels of driving stupidity. So when you drive through one city into the next, you adjust to the ways automatically.
Driving through villages is different to driving through towns and that’s quite a bit different from driving through big cities. But certain incivilities remain broadly the same.
I can’t get my head around the mannerisms of people at airport security checks. Or anywhere involving queues. There is always a colossal idiot — or a few — trying to wrongfully get ahead of others or someone pushing from behind in regrettable ways. People take immense offence to such occurrences. Everyone erupts in anger. Apparently unleashing choicest words at high decibels does the trick of humbling the idiot.
If people have such low tolerance for wrongdoers at airport terminals or other such places, then why do the same people drive like imbeciles? Why jump the queue at the toll plaza or cut lanes on city roads? Why tailgate in a way that will make me burn my bottom on your engine?
This lockdown — I’d like to think — has made people understand and cultivate basic civic and social courtesy. Once the world returns to normalcy, I sincerely hope that everyone employs that in everyday doings — driving included. It’ll make everything a whole lot better.
Or perhaps I am thinking about the impossible and we’ll need the authorities to enforce such sensible things on us? After all, we tend to perform immensely well to impositions.