Driving Like Dummies 6 - "Of Course I Know How to Drive!"

What is the big deal about driving a car? A car is not much different from that 100cc bike we have been riding since we hit puberty. Sure, it is a bit wider, has two more wheels and position, size and shape of the levers, pedals and such controls change a bit. But it is basically the same. And so we just switch over from bike to car, and well, there is a road, there is a vehicle, so, just drive! What more is there to it?And what is the big deal about driving? It is the question of masculinity! We have to go forward (in most cases) and all that entails for that is to "Chalana hai to 'asselelater' dabao, rukna hai to brake maaro. Bas!" Almost everyone driving (including me) break almost all rules of the road every day mostly because most people DO NOT KNOW said rules, and the very few who know them find it impossible to follow them. But if you try to point out to anyone that they were in the wrong, Boom!! Since everyone in India is an expert at everything and especially so about driving and associated things, this will not be taken kindly, it almost as if you are questioning their masculinity. Also, being the proud owner of a vehicle we have so painstakingly acquired working our behinds off, anyone trying to sermonize us on how to drive the vehicle or just anything about it will be absolutely NOT tolerated at any cost! Hence the traffic mess we see on our roads.

There are no Rules Except that I Have the Right of way

Most people learn how to drive on the job by expanding the horizons of their "bike driving" knowledge. No matter what Wikipedia thinks, here "Learning how to operate the machine" is not even a requirement, much less is a driving license. Take my word for it, a large majority of people, 80% or so, have no clue what the rules of the road are when they lay their hands on that prized steering wheel. Driving instructors help develop "road balance" and teach how to operate the controls of the vehicle. That is it. There is no formal training given on how the vehicle has to be operated in relation with other vehicles and what the rules are to be observed in various situations on the road, at turnings, junctions etc so as to ensure smooth movement of all vehicles. See how beautifully traffic "flows" in developed countries? That is because people follow all those rules there. Driving is a scientific process. But not here, hell no! Even through no one really knows what/who is right and wrong, but everyone claims himself to be the expert.

Once we get our hands on the steering wheel of that priced possession, the entitlement that is inbred within all us Indians just explodes and we feel we have reached the top of the World. We do not know what rules to follow, and even if we do know, we don't care because rules are for lesser mortals who are not even in the least as awesome as we who are in possession of a brand new Alto are! Then, the said new Alto descends onto the road and chaos ensues. Most of the time it is sheer ignorance, but more than that it is  our societal values on display, where everything is  to be put down with your impeccable display of masculinity. A world where you and only you matter, where everyone else does not exist and everyone has to bend down and do the bidding of you, the almighty owner of the great Alto!

Photo Courtesy: Time.com

He Know How to Drive! "Rules" we Follow Are:

  • Never, under any circumstances give way for anyone else! No one should be allowed to "defeat" you on the road!
  • Use the road as your own personal racetrack, or behave as if you are the only one on the road.
  • Crawl along at 20 kph in the inside lane or down the middle of the road blocking as many others as possible
  • Drive down the wrong way of the road and get angry at people coming against you!
  • Take right turns from the extreme left and vice versa blocking everyone else's way
  • Stop at the extreme left when you have to go straight blocking free lefts
  • Daydream at traffic signals, blissfully unaware of it when the signal turns green
  • Honk your brains out even while the light is red
  • Markings on the road are best used as decoration
  • Overtake anyone anywhere and anyhow, even on curves, as if you have a curse upon you that your head will explode if you follow another vehicle for more than 10 seconds
  • Squeeze in through the left side or anywhere where there is space, and then try to overtake.
  • Absolute refusal to use headlights, indicators, rear view mirrors, seatbelts, helmets and any kind of signals.
  • Park bang at the narrowest spot of the road to make sure everyone else gets held up behind you and causes traffic snarls.
  • Fight like warriors of the bygone days to make sure no one ever who tries to take a turn/reverse into your path of travel be successful in doing so by squeezing through the last available centimeter of space.
  • Pedestrians should NOT be allowed to cross the road under any circumstances.
  • The bigger vehicle has always right of way and always bullies the smaller ones. In case of an accident, it is ALWAYS the fault of the bigger vehicle.

Where Ego and Self-Righteous One up man ship Rules the Road

A society in which people drive cars with their egos and d*cks rather than with their heads and hands can never be said to be "civilized" in it's true sense. This is because as a society, we are never trained in basic etiquette on how to behave in public and to behave to our fellow human beings with compassion and kindness. Instead, we are taught early in life to put down and walk over others whenever possible and whatever matters. Sometimes, looking at all the dingbats on the road, it feels like the only requirement necessary to drive a vehicle is the presence of a huge stash of hot air in the head in the place where common sense is supposed to reside, and the absolute refusal to acknowledge that the other guy is also as entitled to use the road as you are and that you haven't got any right to cause inconvenience to others by using the road as it is your dad's property. An absolute absence of respect for anyone who uses the road. We are driven by our egos, not rules.

"Driving Style?"

I saw someone commenting on Facebook on a post about breaking queues and driving ahead while waiting at a traffic signal: "What is the big deal? Everyone has their own "style" of driving." Dear friend, you are not a genius but an as**ole. Driving is not something that has to be done "as per your style". The road is not your house, your dance floor or your damn office, and everyone around are not your subordinates whom you can manage "as per your style". Even though the car you are sitting in is a private space, that around you is not, and is composed of people who don't give a shit about you or your car. Rules for driving were invented to make sure order and discipline is kept intact on the roads and everyone reaches where they are supposed to in one piece. What if everyone started driving in their own "style"? On another note, do you walk around a mall naked because that is your "style"? I have heard some senior drivers saying: "Driving on the left hand side is not a rule actually. You have to do so only to give side for vehicles coming against you. Otherwise you can drive on the middle of the road". In another case, I once asked a guy to dim his headlights and he didn't know how to! More about that in the next episode.

The other day I encountered a traffic jam at the eternally crowded Nagawara signal, Bangalore. It was created by a Wagon R moving at snail's pace holding up a bus and a truck behind it and everyone else behind them, creating a huge traffic snarl at the already f*cked up junction. And what is it that takes the cake? It was a goddamn Automatic! Come on!! The gent who was driving was even spared of changing gears, all that he had to do was to dabao-fy the asselerator, and the day of a large number of people would not have been ruined. Too bad I could not catch the number, I would have definitely posted it here. Who even lets these dimwits out of their houses??

[quote]In a nutshell, the only rule that applies on Indian Roads and what people mean when they say "I know how to drive" is, "I have the right of way above anyone else, I should be allowed to drive as I like, everyone should make way for me and no one else should be allowed to go ahead of me. And I am always right."[/quote]

If you care, here are the Rules of the Road Regulations 1989, as per Motor Vehicles Act India, 1989 (both are PDF). These are the rules that are to be followed by drivers while using the road. Of course, none of these apply to any of us as we all know and follow these. It is always the others who break all these rules, right? Please take some time to read them.

Previous Episodes

Part 5 - Story of the Indian Car Buyer Part 2

Part 4 - Story of the Indian Car Buyer Part 1

Part 3 - Story of the Indian Automobile Industry

Part 2 - A Car is NOT an “Investment”

Part 1 - Traffic in India

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