Driving in Delhi – God save our souls!
Delhi boasts of a well-developed transport system. Unlike a decade ago, most of the commercial areas are now well-connected with the Delhi Metro and hence, the roads have become relatively unclogged. Obviously, in an ever growing city like the Nation's capital, there is no dearth of traffic snarls and yet things have become much better than before.
When you get a new vehicle, all you want to do is, have fun with it. Young guys zip, zap and zoom through narrow streets. They try and emulate bike stunts and test the speed limits of their machines.
Without condoning their stupidity, I still do understand why they do it. It is after all young blood – adrenaline rushes through their veins. Most of them are inspired by numerous advertisements of the latest super-powered bikes by manufacturers.
But what percentage of these 18 to 22 year olds is actually driving daily on the roads?
The famed British automobile show, 'Top Gear' had come to India for one of its specials and even their hosts, who have driven on the most dangerous roads of the world, were flabbergasted with the nonchalant way people were driving in India.
First, there are just too many cars in Delhi. I have seen a family of three, who own six cars. I also know a family who didn't have money to send their girl child to school, but they did own a second hand car! Is it the failure of the public transport system or is it the lure of the banks which are eager to loan money to anyone willing to listen long enough?
On top of that people driving in the city do so without any civic sense. No one is interested in driving in their own lanes – and God forbid if you use your indicators when you change lanes. Red lights are for morons, if you go by the mentality of the drivers in Delhi. You can park anywhere you want – middle of the road, if need be. It seems that everyone turns into Superman when drunk, insisting on being stupid and not letting another person drive, or and not even thinking that drunk driving jeopardises your life as well as that of others.
The only times that people actually follow the traffic rules are when the cops are around. But if you have money in your pocket, then there is no reason to worry as the police is more likely to ask for a bribe than to actually fine you for breaking the rules.
People spit out of their vehicle without looking to see who is nearby. They throw cigarette butts, trash, water, vomit and anything else they don't want in their cars. They also attend calls on their mobile phones wherever and whenever they please. I simply have never understood that if you are indeed so important that it wouldn't do without attending the call in the middle of the road, why don't you use a hands-free system? It is safer, for you and those driving around you.
Plus, it would be nice if the two wheeler riders did not just cut in to every little space they find on an already jam-packed road. Added to the woes of driving in this craze is pedestrian behaviour. With roads being as busy as they are, people seem to jump out at the most inopportune moments from the middle of nowhere. Although J-walking is strictly prohibited on the roads, people refuse to adhere to the rules. Even with the presence of foot over bridges or underground subways, everyone just choses to cross the road from wherever they please. Even if they are a few metres away - sometimes even with small children in tow. Imagine having to anticipate people springing out right in front of your vehicle while you are driving on the national highway, especially if there is fog or it is raining.
Don't even get me started on those who honk incessantly. It would confound the sharpest thinkers as to what they think they would achieve if they honk loudly for the duration of the red light. Would other cars suddenly vanish, or would they sprout wings if they honk too much and fly away from all the jams they have been facing?
It is this rash behaviour which makes the city an absolute nightmare to drive in. Drivers are unbelievably unapologetic about breaking traffic rules. The lamest I have heard is that since other people do it, you should do it too. There are daily incidents of accidents, many of which are deadly or lead to the loss of limbs. Life in our country has no price, no one cares about a few dead on the road due to a lack of sense.
It is almost as if the transport authority doesn't care about who is getting a drivers' license, and absolutely no one fears repercussions of rash driving. Or maybe, it is the lack of empathy and manners reflected in our general behaviour towards physically challenged individuals and old people too, which we absolutely need to change.
Things are at the worst they could be, and the danger is literally lurking at every corner. Whether you are a good driver or not would not make any difference to you being prone to a massive accident.
I would not be wrong in saying that driving in Delhi would make the monks in Himalayas lose their cool!