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My Way or the Highway


By Ratna Manucha

There is this cute little story doing the rounds about traffic in the national capital – that the traffic is so dense that one finds oneself closer to someone else’s wife than one’s own! (When one is out on the roads, that is). You see, in a car there still is a distance of at least a foot between a couple, but when you are stuck in a traffic jam, snuggled closely, side by side, then you definitely are closer to the driver of the car next to you…and if the driver is a woman and if your eyes lock and if you exchange a smile or two…you get the drift!

Due to the traffic moving at a snail’s pace, one may find that both the cars are moving together for quite some distance, sometimes ahead, sometimes a little behind and at other times side by side yet again. A strange kind of familiarity and comfort develops between the occupants of both the cars. And if we are talking about a daily commute, well then…maybe one finds oneself searching for a familiar face in the sea of vehicles!

That got me thinking. The traffic conditions in our once beautiful city are no different. For one, we are not too keen on following traffic rules. After all, rules are meant to be broken, at least in our own country.

Am I really supposed to line up one behind the other at a red light? Seriously? But what if someone else comes after me and makes another line, in the bargain blocking the free left turn? So let me make a dash for it instead. And why is this crazy man honking behind me and making angry faces? People really have no patience. Oooooh! Now I get it. I seem to have blocked the free left turn! So what? Take a chill pill. People really have no patience.

What’s that? You want to know why I’m honking on an empty stretch of road? Well, I just got this amazing horn which sounds like a siren on my new motor cycle – my mean machine. I just love it when I honk and people scurry off the road thinking an ambulance is coming and then I see the look on their faces as I race past … it’s hilarious, you know. At least it is, for me.

And you do know that those funny looking white stripes on the road, which are almost non-existent in our city, are called Zebra stripes? They are actually meant for the lowly pedestrians to cross the road but it is such a pain to stop even if I see a zebra crossing…you know I do try to stop, I really do, but my car keeps inching forward of its own accord till it finally stops on the zebra crossing.

How will the pedestrians cross, you ask? Well, to tell you the truth I hadn’t really given it much thought. They can make a dash for it, weaving their way through ongoing traffic, like they usually do. After all, they are used to it. As for me, I like to be the first one to drive off as soon as the light turns green… in fact I’ll let you on a little secret – sometimes I drive off just before the light turns green. It gives me a big high to just narrowly miss the last bit of traffic coming from the opposite side and look at the irate faces of the drivers mouthing obscenities which I obviously can’t hear. You know, while we’re on the subject, let me tell you about another quirk of mine. You know that old saying, ‘There’s safety in numbers?’ Well, I’m a firm believer in that, especially when it comes to parking. Whenever I have to park my car or my mean machine, I always try and park it as close as possible to another vehicle. Or sometimes right behind a parked vehicle so that it cannot back out. Why do I do that? I honestly have no idea. Maybe I feel my vehicle is safer. First, I have parked in a ‘No Parking’ zone. Secondly, I feel maybe the police will get confused when they come to tow away the wrongly parked vehicles. Maybe they’ll do Eenie, Meenie Miney Mo. Which one to first to tow? Obviously they will pick the one that is most easily accessible and since mine is sandwiched in an unwieldy manner between two cars, I might be lucky.

There’s one more thing. The number plate of my car reads ZZZ00000. I paid through my nose for this number. Maybe once they see this number plate, they may think I’m a Very Influential Person and leave my wrongly parked car alone. Just a thought.

(Ratna Manucha is an author and educationist)