Monday, March 28, 2011

Agonies On Road!

The journey of life, at times, is very frustrating. Just because of the fellow travelers who do not behave in a way that we expect them to. The same goes for the journey itself. I mean the ‘literal’ journey – the journey on road. Roads keep reminding me how dangerous my journey on this planet is – what kind of fellow human beings I have to travel along with. First of all, I am not sure if all of them could be qualified as human beings at this point. Like birth certificate and many other medical certificates, it would be great to have some systems in place to check our ‘human index’ – a measure to check how human we are. Those who are low on human index should be sent back to jungle.

A friend of mine used to say he would be at his philosophical best while in toilet. Likewise, at times, I get horribly philosophical while on road. This concept of human index came to my mind when I was driving today – amidst some of my most human(!) countrymen. What on earth, sorry, what on road makes me so philosophical? Please do not come with data to prove my point wrong or to say that my crap about human index is not worth enough to call myself philosophical. :)

I see all sorts of characters on road. The most exhibited trait on road is ‘selfishness’ – one of the strongest animal instincts that have been staying on with us for too long. Nobody wants to care about the lives of fellow human beings. It’s not that they kill a number of fellow human beings every time they take out their vehicle. They don’t do that because they can’t do that. Luckily, we have such laws and systems in place today. May be, if we were to live in such lawless civilizations, each one of us would be killing a number of people on road every day – like animals. By the way, ‘lawless civilization’ is not an oxymoron. It’s a reality. No civilization is completely civilized yet. One more ‘by the way’, I wouldn’t argue with you if you say Australian cricket team is the least civilized of them all. Let’s leave them aside for a moment for the sake of focus in our discussion. :)

Coming back to my agonies on road… Some of our ‘best’ drivers are those who drive recklessly without being too worried about other lives. The way they drive is very safe for them but not for others. These are the ones that prove the selfishness theory. They just don’t care a damn about the following vehicles (if they are smaller vehicles than their own) while changing lanes. I don’t have quantitative data, but I am sure it (changing lanes) should be one of the topmost causes for accidents. Unfortunately, most of our drivers don’t even know what it is.

They, instinctively take a swift cut even when there is a small patch (a patch that is not worth such a swift action) on the road. They are more worried about their tires than the safety of the ones that follow them. This is one of the most common phenomenons that I have seen with most of the drivers. When the entire road is full of such patches these people just drive zigzag throughout – disturbing everyone else on road. They do it just for the sake of avoiding some small jerks in their long journey. They want to have a smooth drive at the cost of others’ inconvenience.

These are the guys that don’t switch off high beam headlights even when you keep signaling them to do so repeatedly. These are the guys who honk too much. I have seen some guys who keep their hand on the horn for longer time than on the steering itself. It is the second most important thing for them in any vehicle - after accelerator. They are so fond of noise - as if they were born in the streets.

It’s just that they have come into our living area from jungle little earlier than their other fellow creatures. We can’t get rid of these problems until we have a world full of only human beings driving vehicles. All my friends who have visited western countries say that those countries have better systems in place to ensure only human traits are exhibited on road. Let’s pray for such change in our holy land too. So many religions were born here, but no one has taught us how to behave in public places like road. It’s better to have some sections on road etiquette incorporated in our holy books.

The next – most seen trait is the ‘carelessness’. Carelessness is just the absence of fear or I would even call it the absence of sense. It’s just that they haven’t thought about the way they drive. It’s just that they don’t know the value of their life. These guys would change if they get a second chance, but unfortunately most of them don’t get one. They are like that because they don’t think of anything other than their destination. For them, end is more important than the means. This also sounds like selfishness because this also roots from selfishness in many cases if not all.

Most of those who drive in opposite lanes and jump signals do so out of carelessness. And, the remaining ‘most’ might be doing such things out of ignorance, I guess. They haven’t heard of accident stories due to driving on opposite lanes or due to jumping signals. They haven’t been scolded by any of their more powerful countrymen (politically correct term for arrogant fellows!) for driving like that. They haven’t been fined by cops or they haven’t paid any luxury tax (politically correct term for bribe!) to cops. They would correct themselves the day they are taught a lesson.

Yeah, arrogance (one of our national traits) shouldn’t be missed here. Some people, no matter what, have to shout at certain number of people once they are out of their house every day. May be, they are taking out their frustrations back home. But, what they don’t realize is that these people who get shouted can introduce them to more dangerous consequences than the ones back home or the boss can do. These guys think the whole world is theirs and they have all the rights to shout at anyone anywhere as they wish. They generally change after getting slapped once or twice by a mightier countryman on road.

I have seen this in long queues in toll booths, railway gates, petrol pumps and single-lane roads. When there is a single-lane queue, some nuts just overtake all the vehicles in front by driving on a wrong lane and just insert into the space that they find between any two vehicles in front-most positions when all other law-abiding fools wait in queue. They think they are smart and others are all fools. They have been living because no one has dared to slap them so far. My blood boils when I see such people. I feel like going on a national expedition to find such people everywhere and slap them one by one. It is not just arrogance. This is kind of an inhuman behavior. It’s lawlessness. It’s animalistic. They should better be in jungle.

There is a more serious form of carelessness. It is just that they don’t know the seriousness of life itself. These guys just get into race with fellow drivers. They invite others to the race by driving in provocative ways. They can’t even drive for an hour without inviting someone to this trouble. A friend of mine says he can’t drive long distances without having such fun. Every time he goes to his native place he gets into this kind of races. He loves it. He is too excited by such things in life. He says there are too many people like him to give him enough company when he drives such long distances. Crazy… Mad… Insane… - Aren’t they? I have heard of stories that started with this kind of fun and ended with end of lives. Hope they hear them too.

There are also a good number of people who get shouted for reasons they don’t know. They can’t shout back. They can’t correct their mistakes. They can’t understand what their mistakes are. Sometimes, the mistake could be their decent look. It could be their gender. It could be that they drive a vehicle registered in some other state (it doesn’t matter if they have no objection certificate from the original state or not; it doesn’t matter if they have paid road tax in the current state or not; it doesn’t matter if they drive properly or not; sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if they belong to other state or this state itself!). These people remind me of the weaker sections in our society. They can’t do anything about it. They just have to watch helplessly and smile or keep quiet. What a cruel planet we are on!

The most worrying thing that I see on road is that some people who drive so carefully and safely that nothing could ever happen to them on road... they also get into problems. It’s like teetotalers dying in cancer before chain smokers. They respect the road. They follow all rules. They keep reminding themselves about the lives (elders, women and children back home) that depend on them for their food, pleasure, happiness, security, school fees, emotional support and all sorts of livelihood. Even then some of them get hit – get shouted – lose lives – lose organs – don’t reach their destinations. This keeps reminding me how biased life is – for some people. Despite making no mistakes, they suffer because of someone else’s mistake. That ‘someone else’ doesn’t even get punished for his mistake in most cases.

Why? I don’t have an answer right now. Nor am I hopeful that I would ever get an answer. All I can do is to blame it on fate. That’s what inability can do. Can fate be managed better by us human beings? I think so. I am optimistic. Everyone following good road etiquette could save lot more lives. But, for that, we need people with good human index – to be open to learn them and follow them. :)

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