Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What is wrong with you, human?

That is the chant the voice in my head repeats, in various tones of frustration and helplessness, as I drive to and from work every day. There is also the addition of expletives, the raising of the hand to point all fingers at the offender in question and the deadly eye-to-eye stare that you ensure you deliver with the look of a Bollywood mother-in-law.

The traffic’s gone bat-shit crazy, y’all. This is stating the obvious to everyone who lives in Bangalore but let me do my thing to let off ze steam, please? I often drive four hours a day, sometimes bumper to bumper and sometimes bumper to just-missed-that-human.

Let me clarify that this isn’t a solution manual, primarily because I have no solution to offer. Let me also state that I adore the Bangalore I grew up in and I love its people too, but we can all agree Bangalore of the 90s is no more. The immense road rage today’s Bangalore witnesses on a daily basis makes me want to move to Kenya and live with the Maasai and their lions.

“But why? Bangalore is so young and the weather is SOO .. ...” Shut up.  Let me repeat, shut up. And stop honking while you’re at it.

I don’t claim to be an expert driver or a skilled observer of every day occurrences but here’s what I understand of Bangalore’s traffic.

In Bangalore, peak hours have been acquired by Murphy’s laws. Because peak hours are on whenever YOU get about driving on the streets. Irrespective of the time, you will find yourself muttering under your breath while you steer the wheel with one hand and point to the hooligan driving alongside you, with the other.

Here, the buses think they’re cars, cars are make-believe bikes and bikes are humans on wheels, practicing aerobics. Of course, it is unfair to generalize, but to a great extent, drivers do not seem to understand the dimensions of their vehicles. That bus you saw in the distance in your rear-view mirror about 5 seconds back is going to stand ½ a foot away from your vehicle in the time you blinked. The driver will then proceed to look out his window and examine with pride, this artsy juxtaposition of vehicles. Of course, if he notices the woman at the wheel, he is going to stare longer and smirk the ‘so she thinks she can drive?’ smirk – but that’s a whole other debate and another unfair generalization.

The ladies and gents on two-wheelers seem to find pleasure in swaying around the center of the road like a dandelion in the wind. You will find them hovering about while talking on the phone/talking to the pillion rider/not talking to anyone but demonstrating his or her belief in ‘(ridiculously) slow and steady wins the race’. And if you’re stuck in a jig-saw-ish traffic jam, brace yourself for the cavalry of two-wheelers and rickshaws that will descend down on you from both sides, wriggle their way past your vehicle, put a scratch on it or deliver a KO to your side-mirror and occasionally turn around to get a glimpse of your tomato-red-rage face, complete with steam emanating from the ears.

Finally then, our pedestrians. They either believe they are from Krypton or they have trouble telling their backyard from a main road. You will not go by a single day where there is no human hopping across the path of your car as if to dare you. Even the cows know better – they stay stationary while you navigate around them! Yes, I am a Malleshwaram - hudugi but the number of people that loiter lazily, star-gaze and whisper stolen poetry into their lover’s ears BANG in the middle of the road they call 8th Cross makes me wonder how there hasn’t been a petition to turn it into a park.

There are plenty other ingredients to this heady mix as well. Like smoke and dust (and whatever else renders you incapable of inhaling air) and bad roads, some so terrible, they could put the moon to shame.

At the end of every drive, one needs to calm the nerves and thank the Lord for not letting one’s vehicle get intimate with any other mobile or temporarily stationary object on the road. Else one risks busting ‘em nerves, busting one’s job or one’s personal life.

Yep, it sucks how road rage is hardly as fun as Road Rash promised it would be.