Day 69: The great Indian madness

The great Indian madness called the roads. Driving home to visit the parents in Coimbatore, and the 6-hour drive has been fun. It’s almost symbolic of our manic lives – a random pedestrian walks across your path, carefree and wanton; a cow parks itself squat in the middle of the highway, oblivious to the high speed travel; an annoying family honks their way past you from behind, unaware that multiple lanes exist for a reason. And through it all, you’re stuck in your little metal bubble, behind the steering wheel, with the false illusion that your control is the reason you’re still alive.

Fish fry… Strange incense… Hot poodle poop… Man not showered in three days… Biriyani, Oooh where was that biriyani. Turn around, S” Scotch

Day 56: Growing old with parents

I was 16 when I sat behind the wheels of a car for the first time. Our phoenix red Maruti Omni seemed like the perfect testing ground and I was super excited. We hit the under-construction inner-ring road post-midnight and after a few debacles with the clutch-accelerator pedals, we were go. And in a few, I was cruising down that road; it was a time when Bangalore did not have the manic traffic problems of today. I had heard from friends about the gears and shifting, and I was switching over seamlessly when my dad let out a strong yell and I hit the brakes immediately. 4th gear? I was just a newbie and I had switched to the top-most gear? We’ll wait for some hours of driving before we get there, OK?

 

Driving has always been portrayed as an overly-technical feat that requires extensive hand-eye-leg-brain coordination. Add to that the general societal stereotype about women driving and it is made to seem like a humongous achievement. When dad got his first car, the phoenix red Omni, mom got behind the wheel as well. To this day, her driving down the roads of Bangalore and Coimbatore are shared as humorous anecdotes in family gatherings. This comes mostly from relatives who have been driven around by their husbands all their life. When I came back to India and started driving again, I felt the need to ‘practice’ before I got on the road because of the huge task that driving on Indian roads was made out to be.

 

Add the importance attached to driving to the Indian mindset of gaining one’s parents’ approval to be considered successful, and I was always conscious about my driving around my parents. When the folks visited me in the US, there was always an extra attempt to be the responsible driver. A smooth lane transition, a successful overtaking maneuver or a last-minute save-our-lives braking and the ears were always perked to hear that nod of appreciation. Most drives were spent in utter silence, and I could feel my parents holding their breaths, not letting conversation distract their attention from the road. Somehow, the thousands of miles driven and the 8-hour non-stop drive back from Niagara falls were all validated only by the approval from the boss.

 

This week when the parents visited though, things seemed very different. The pressure was strangely gone. And they did not mind me driving them around as well. I did not have to do the usual fight when dad is around, to get into the driver seat. Very few have won that fight with him and I did not even have to make an effort this time. There was very little pillion-driving as well, and except for an occasional remark, they continued on their conversation, almost unaffected by the driving.

 

As I thought some more about this, I realized that we had all grown up a lot since that night from 2000. My parents had grown to accept me as an adult, specifically in the last few years. I had grown to accept them as human beings, with their fears and insecurities. We had grown confident in each other’s strengths, and weaknesses, and turned to each other for advice when needed. We knew when to hold off on those uncalled for suggestions. And i think that maybe my need to prove my worth to them was all in my mind after all. Maybe they knew from the beginning that was good at it; I was their child after all.

You will always have my nod of approval, S. Who else lets me sit up front while in the car!” Scotch 

Ban ’em earphones

I am slowly but steadily turning against noise-cancelling devices of any kind. I propose a ban on ear phones, head phones, around-the-head phones, around-the-ear phones, Bluetooth ear pieces and anything else that mankind can stuff in, on or around their ears to kill out external noise.

I want every citizen of the country, traveling on its ‘well-kept’ roads, to listen to every sound that is produced around them and that they are actively contributing to. We’ve become a nation that is so comfortable listening to the nasal drone of Himesh Reshamaiyya and Justin Bieber in our ears that we fail to comprehend the levels of noise that we create on the roads. I drove by a persistent honker today, who made it seem like his car’s brakes were connected to its horn, only to find him comfortable in his air-conditioned little bubble, ear phones plugged hard into both ears. Bleeps!

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A keen cyclist captures a driver using a mobile phone, a laptop and headphones while driving. Phew! Source http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Me and my ears

After spending a few significant years outside the country and after reading a little too many forwards about single women and their safety in the country, I always walk with my ears super attentive. While it would have been too easy to drown out the pains of the world in a beautiful rock ballad, there are the hidden fears lurking in your shadows that you should be aware of. I leave the rock ballads to the comfort of my home, a lavish drink and a book in hand. So, I find it extremely nonchalant on the part of those hailing a cab who sit with their ears plugged away, while their driver drives the machine of death that could give the local ambulance a beat at the race.

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Bleepety-Bloopety-Blaah!

Mean, keen flying machines! Yeah, Right!

Modern day cabs and buses are the major contributors to the increasing noise levels on the road. They use theirs horns like it were a light-saber; a whoosh and they expect all their opponents on the road to vanish. Well, what if I light-saber you back? And that’s where the duel begins. Have you noticed the melee of honks that ensue the nanosecond the signal turns to green? It’s almost like they were expecting the Flying Falcons in front of them to accelerate from 0-60 kmph in 1.6 seconds and now their F-16 is denied reaching the haloed Mach 2. All that mad ravenous blaring only to go 300 meters and stall at the next traffic junction. How myopic a race have we become these days?

Blame those riders

As I think more about the growing doom, I realize that the riders are as responsible as the drivers themselves. Most of them are indifferent to the ruckus that their drivers create, and sit with a glee contentment in knowing that they aren’t the ones going to hell. Well, you know what they say about Karma, don’t you? I myself have asked my cab drivers to stop honking on a number of occasions and on two specific incidents, I’ve stopped my cabbie mid-route because of his incessant honking, rash driving and not heeding to my requests to drive sane.

Why did the honking annoy me and not these thousand other riders, you wonder? Those darned earphones, I tell you!

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Those darned noise-cancelling, bubble-creating, zombielife-inducing earphones!