Wednesday, February 21, 2018

No lovers of rules

If there is one trait of our citizenry that betrays itself visibly on city roads, it is our tendency to try and bend the rules just a little bit for very minor or even no gain at all, and being willing to generate total chaos along the way, even to pose great risks to our fellow citizens in the bargain.

On the major roads of most Indian cities, there will always be that one guy who will try and drive in reverse for as long as half a kilometre just so he can avoid driving forwards a couple of kilometers and then taking a U-turn. There's a good chance that he will ultimately waste twice as much time doing so because he cannot reverse very fast, and if he does, he is liable to get into an argument or worse, a physical confrontation, which will slow him down even further. But he'll take his chance anyway.

We all know that person who will try to turn a car around a full 180 degrees bang in the middle of rush hour, causing a traffic jam that lasts anywhere between ten and twenty minutes. Then there's the person who will overtake from the right at high speed, full aware that it isn't really safe. Or the person who will stop the car in the middle of the road and just sit behind the wheel, chit-chatting with a friend or saying lingering goodbyes.

People who live abroad and get used to driving in countries where there are fewer opportunities for bending rules, return and find that they can no longer drive on Indian roads with any confidence.

Trying to manoeuvre in narrow spaces is not a bad thing in principle. But there is a difference between driving like it's an adventure sport, where you primarily risk your own life, and traffic adventures where everyone else's life is at risk.

Now take seat belts. I am surprised that I continue to meet drivers who will not wear a seat belt or a bike helmet for safety reasons, but will pull it on as soon as they see a traffic cop.

Sometimes I wonder if this is because we are generally disrespectful of other people's lives and limbs, or whether we just like authority figures. I would like to think otherwise.

My own brother refuses to drive until everyone's belted in, and often he will not allow a cab to drive away until he's seen me belted in at the back, especially if I'm travelling on an expressway. But the honest truth is, I find that I too can be stupid sometimes. I find myself resisting a seat belt when I'm in the back seat. The only reason I wear the seat belt as a front seat passenger is that I don't want someone else to pay a hefty fine on my account. My own bodily safety ought to matter more to me than somebody else's money and, in principle, it does. Yet, in practise, it doesn't.

Sometimes I wonder if my resistance comes from an ingrained resistance to following too many rules. Or if we are all just teenagers on the inside, sulking about being told what to do for our own good.

First published here:

No comments:

Tweets by @anniezaidi