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Driving India home, and how!

| Updated on August 28, 2020 Published on August 28, 2020

Fast lane: Stopping for pedestrians is absolutely forbidden   -  ISTOCK.COM

Survival on the roads has a new rule book. An old-world driver gets a crash course

Dear Editor,

I stopped my car at a pedestrian crossing to let an elderly couple cross the road. Behind me, a mounting cacophony of horns and shouts rose from drivers angry at being held up. As usual, I ignored them and waited till the couple were safely across before going ahead.

A short while later my path was blocked by a posse of vigilantes wearing black baseball caps turned backwards. Their blood-red T-shirts were covered with images of crashed vehicles and the words ‘Road Ragers’ in large letters. They frog-marched me to a similarly dressed youth who was apparently their leader.

The posse chorused loudly, “He stopped at a pedestrian crossing.” Lip curled, the leader snarled, “Re-education. Now.”

I was immediately strapped into a chair and head clamped facing a large screen. A video began, accompanied by intimidating music and an ominous voice-over.

“You are here to learn the New Principles of Driving in India,” it said. There was a flamboyant flourish from massed tablas. “Principle 1: Your duty as a driver is to follow the most expedient path between start and destination. Every point on the path ahead of you can be occupied by exactly one object. Your goal is always to be that object.”

Then, dear Editor, the voice went on to Principle 2, listing a few more instructions. “Forget archaic concepts such as ‘the’ middle of the road; forget making vehicles keep to one side only. A road can have as many middles as there are vehicles on it. Get used to it,” the voice snapped.

There was more. Under Principle 3, Traffic on the left, I was told, was the competition. “Discourage them by driving unpredictably and edging closer until they retreat,” it said.

Not that the vehicles on the right had it easy. Principle 4 said: “Traffic on your right is adversarial and must always be actively engaged.”

The voice carried on. Principle 5 urged me never to “give way” to other traffic. “Being on the blind side of another vehicle gives you exactly the advantage you need to go past. Feel free to wing their rear-view mirror, or crush the corner of their fender to impress on them the strength of your position.”

Dear Editor, I learnt that there had to be an element of mystery, too. “Principle 6: Tell other road users exactly what you expect of them. But never reveal what you wish to do.” For example, I was told that I could flash headlights and wave one hand vigorously to tell an approaching vehicle where to go.

“If several vehicles come towards you, put your headlights on high beam and drive at them. If a vehicle fails to obey, dart in fast from the left and make the other driver brake rapidly. You may use your horn to confuse.”

Then came Principle 7 — and that is how it all began. I’d made the mistake of stopping for pedestrians which, clearly, was absolutely forbidden.

“Pedestrian crossings are a menace. It is far easier to pick off single pedestrians than have them bunched together. Scatter any pedestrians collected at a crossing by driving straight at them. You may toot your horn and flash headlights to further intimidate them.”

The voice signed off with: “Introduction to the Principles of New Driving in India. End of Lesson One.”

I woke suddenly with a thunderous crescendo from tablas in my ears. It took me a few moments, dear Editor, to realise it had been a nightmare.

Thinking about it later, I wondered how many other drivers had similar dreams. Is that why so many are already following the New Principles of Driving in India?

Yours

Driven-to-despair reader

Yours Sincerely is a weekly record of grudges and grumblings from an anonymous reader

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Published on August 28, 2020
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