of being driven by justice

How many of you have ever driven on the roads in Delhi? Those of you who have will agree that it is fucking terrifying with the complete disregard for traffic rules. Because rules are for children. This is war, and all that matters is victory, not the bloodbath that leads you to it.

Most drivers are egotistic, homicidal/suicidal maniacs. They will pull out of their driveways in full speed, not caring that there’s moving traffic on the road, and then start driving on the wrong side of the road without so much as blinking (pun intended).

People just assume that they have the right of way. They will flash their headlights at you, and honk until you give them space, even if they’re in YOUR lane. If you don’t move, or flash back at them, the will keep coming at you until you swerve and hit someone. So you end up moving.

And then there is the complete irreverence for human life – pedestrians have nowhere to cross the road, because cars will only stop ON the zebra crossing, a quarter of an inch from where the signal is. No sir, we won’t let anyone pass, not even ambulances. Let them die if they must. Cop cars, however, are free to do as they like. Thulle se panga? No way.

Don’t even get me started on the incessant honking.

Now I’ve been driving for only three (or four?) years – and I know that I am better than most newbies. I know I can easily take on most of the “No if no but, only Jatt” Pajero owners and people with political party flags as they try to stick their cars into the barely-enough space between my car and the next, close enough for me to count their nasal hair.

But I don’t, because I try to obey the rules and be what my ex used to call a “smooth” driver. No jerky movements, no surprises, no rule-breaking. Unless it’s an emergency of course, like when someone’s injured or dying, in which case I’d take just a few nanoseconds to get where I want to be, regardless of how many rules had to be broken. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Now since I conceived, my driving has become slower and more deliberate. I barely drive over 50 km/h (which, btw, is the speed limit here). This slowing down has sensitized me to things that I probably wasn’t bothered by earlier, and the innate sense of justice that I inherited from my father (yes, he did teach me something good) has come to the surface, and I’m unable to push it down.

Which brings me to what happened this morning.

It was drizzling, and I woke up feeling like a cow; bloated, slow, and nauseous. I didn’t want to, but I had to drive to work. I reluctantly pulled out of my driveway, and headed out onto the main road.

Just as I turned, a blue-gray Swift appeared out of nowhere in front of my car. This guy was trying to overtake an RTV that was moving slowly, and had ventured into my lane. Now I did have space on the left to maneuver, but I didn’t stop. Of course I did this only because I knew there was enough distance between us for the guy to slow down – I wouldn’t have risked my baby. Truth be told, I was done being “nice”; done giving way to errant drivers who zig-zag their way into my lane, assuming that they can bully me. I needed to be “just”. So I stopped. He had to, too. He stood there, staring at me through his windshield. I stared back in defiance. The road in his lane was absolutely clear by now, and he could just have backed up and gone his way, but he was just being cocky, so I started honking manically.

Eventually he had to back up, but he pulled over to my side, rolled his window down, glared at me and asked: Aapka steering ghoomta nahin hai kya? Does your steering not function?

Mere steering ki fikr chhodiye, apni lane mein gaadi chalaiye, itni zillat nahin uthani padegi. You should stop worrying about my steering wheel, and instead focus on driving within you lane. That way you’ll never have to be embarrassed, I said, victorious.

He drove away without a word, and I instantly felt better for having stepped out. Justice had been served.