On The Road

The subject of this post is driving in Bangalore, and WHAT THE HELL DO PEOPLE THINK THEY’RE DOING ON THE ROADS THESE DAYS!

Enough said about potholes and the state of Bangalore’s roads, the fact  we’re driving not only on the left of the road but also on what’s left of the road. Enough said about all that, about bumper to bumper traffic that moves an inch an hour during peak traffic. There’s been plenty of venting about those themes. To add to these already existing woes you have all varieties of aberrant behavior on the roads.  Of aberrant varieties of pedestrian behaviour, the type I find most maddening is when people amble in the middle of the road, right in front of your approaching vehicle, with absolutely no intention of getting out of your way. It’s a silent war on the road, between your car and their legs. You can see it in their eyes, the way they walk more slowly than usual even though you are approaching at a speed of 40 kmph, staring blankly at your windscreen as if you aren’t there at all, as if even they aren’t there at all. You panic, but are hopeful that they will pick up the pace and leave the way clear for you, but your hope is in vain — their steps get slower just as you begin to accelerate. There’s something vaguely insolent about the whole encounter, cheeky even, dare-devil-like.

As for other drivers, forget about courtesy altogether. If there’s one inch of space between you and the next car, you can be sure that a motorcyclist will try to maneuver his way into that space; if you are at an intersection and another car is approaching from your right, you can be sure that the other car isn’t going to stop to let you pass by first. The rule is, no one give way to anyone; it’s every man for himself on these asphalt battlefields. Overtaking from the left is legion. Overtaking from any and all sides is a way of life. If you are patiently waiting for a chance to break through oncoming traffic, you can be sure that the guy next to you is going to squeeze his way past you first. There’s no such thing as “right of way”; it’s my way on the highway. People don’t so much drive as weave their way in and out of the traffic. If you can restrain the urge to remain in your lane and instead go with the flow by weaving your way through the vacant pockets in the traffic, you are sure to reach your destination sooner and prevent others from reaching theirs.

It’s the survival of the fittest and the fastest on these roads. Many dents later, I have learned some important lessons:

–don’t try to overtake the autorickshaw in front of you, because if you do, he’ll just creep up on you, accelerate,  and overtake you from the left.

–When you approach an intersection, always assume that a madly out-of-control vehicle lurks at the turning, waiting to plough right into your approaching vehicle.

Never allow make the mistake of allowing yourself to get sandwiched between two racing buses.

–If a motorcyclist has made up his mind to cross your vehicle at right angles just when you’re trying to get ahead in the traffic, nothing is going to make him change his mind. Your stasis is his advantage, even more so when there are 4 people traveling on his bike.

–Always accelerate at an intersection, otherwise you will end up waiting for all the other cars to pass you by.

Eat Pray Love . . . Then Marry

I am now more than halfway through Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Committed. I chanced upon it by accident while I was browsing at a bookstore last weekend. I have been a great fan of Eat Pray Love and have been looking around for something else to read by the same author.

Well, Committed pretty much “peels the onion” as far as marriage is concerned. Grandly renouncing the rose-tinted spectacles of romance, the author leaves no stone unturned in her quest to completely demythologize the world’s oldest and most revered institution — all in her own inimitable style. I must say that I envy her sense of humor and quick wit — both of which made Eat Pray Love such a resounding success.

The gist of Committed is that marriage is more often a curse than a blessing, especially for women. It’s something many women do because they feel that they have to. It’s a compulsion rather than a choice, a compulsion driven by thousands of years of rationalizations, injunctions, and decrees, as well as cultural stereotypes that leave no role for women other than as wives and mothers.  At the same time, there are, she acknowledges, good reasons to marry and to stay married:  children, companionship, stability, the experience of being a mother, the need for family — but these are not reasons that have ever appealed to her (and, dare I add, to me either).