01 November 2008

Road rage

While driving on one of the roads in Pune the other day, we got stuck in a traffic jam. A truck had overturned and was blocking an entire lane and the traffic was trying to squeeze through the remaining lane. It was 9:30 am in the morning of a weekday and people were bustling to their workplaces. While we were thus waiting in queue, a Honda city suddenly overtook us from the right and drove close to the Maruti 800 in front of us. While doing so, the left hand side mirror of the Honda got damaged. In a flash the driver of the Honda - a well-to-do, well-built young guy, got out and started abusing the driver of the Maruti 800.

When the other guy, who was much older, did not respond, this guy opened this door and started kicking him. He kept on doing it until the other guy started screaming in pain. The bystanders were too shocked by the sheer violence at hardly any provocation. The young guy then dragged the older guy out of his car and started demanding that he pay up for the damage to his car. I admired his audacity, since it was his mistake in the first place that resulted in the mishap!

I was fuming with indignation at the unfairness of it when my husband gripped my hand to ensure that I do not get out of our car to get embroiled in their squabble. Soon the girl accompanying the younger guy got out and tried to intervene. I assumed that she was trying to make peace, but apparently she was egging on the younger guy! Soon he started hitting the older guy again. The drivers of other cars and 2-wheelers could take this no more, thank God. A couple of them overpowered the younger guy and made him drive away. And very soon the traffic was moving again.

I reached my office, but I was in shock the entire day. What was so precious about a small dent or a broken mirror that made people resort to such violent and aggressive behavior on roads? Surely it is not worth risking a jail sentence? My husband says that this is very prevalent everywhere especially where people have long commutes and have to go through such traffic jams routinely. It is natural to feel indignant at a loss caused by another person's mistake, but to resort to violence is hardly any solution. Hitting on the weak, just because one is physically stronger is hardly fair. Also, in all of this there was hardly any policeman in sight even though there was an overturned truck nearby.

I remembered my driving days in the US where for 3 months I never noticed that my car horn was not functioning at all since I never got the opportunity to use it! People adhere to the traffic discipline strictly and even stop at Stop signs when there is no one watching! Even when there are accidents, no one shouts at each other, the police comes to the spot immediately. The guilty party is slapped with a bill for damages and there are seldom any harsh words exchanged, forget about violence.

People blame our traffic management, our roads, our population for this road rage. But isn't it something that we can all control should we decide to be civil about everything? After all, anger harms most the person who gets angry than the victim. So at least in our own benefit, we should learn to exercise patience and forbearance when driving on Indian roads.

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