Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Road Rage capital of the country

“Pilot runs over and kills man with his car in a fit of road rage” screamed all the headlines yesterday. As one watched in shocked horror the details of the incident in South Delhi’s Sunday shopping destination Khan Market unfolded –all because of an altercation that arose out of a small collision? Unbelievable !
And then everyone nodded collective heads saying oh its Delhi and that’s how it is in Delhi , the Road Rage capital of the country I don’t know which was more horrific ; the happening or its labelling .
This morning on my long seemingly interminable commute to work, I was jolted out of my habitual hunched posture above my laptop by a sudden jerk and the harsh sound of metal scraping hard on metal. It took all of four or five seconds for it to sink in that it was much closer home than I would have liked it and something had actually rammed into my car. From the corner of my eye I could see a huge mass which said “big massive truck” too close for comfort and I froze .
But before I could say , well, Khan Market , my good man at the wheel, AZ, was out of the car and all set to take on the driver of the truck . Soon choice Marathi swear words were clashing with robust Punjabi slang as the truck driver , a blur of orange turban and wild , flowing beard swung his big bulky self from the truck . Injured Maratha pride was no match for good, full blown Jat bluster but it was still a free for all. Fearing for the well being of my foolishly brave AZ I called out to him to get back in and move on. I would inspect the damage later on, I thought , fervently hoping all the time it wasn’t too bad. Better a damaged car than a dead or beaten up driver was what I reckoned.
It was a surprise to realise that the usually quiet and well behaved guy at the wheel of your car can get so agitated and vocal, albeit he was to blame for what had happened , not being the best disciplined when it came to sticking to his own lane . But before I had to resort to any more impassioned pleas to desist the cops were on the scene. Oh was I relieved to see the Pandus walk up to the scene and come in between the two by now almost coming to blows bhau and paaji .
One thing I can say it is definitely the round the clock and disciplined , reassuring presence of the Mumbai Traffic Cop on the city’s streets that keeps its sanity despite the most horrendous traffic snarls day in and day out on every expressway , road , street, lane and alley.
Since anyway thanks to the bumper to bumper traffic, we had only been crawling and the damage to my car though it upset me no end was not as bad as it could have been, all I wanted was out of there and back on my way to work. The minutes were ticking by and I was already late this morning . Thanks to the cops’ intervention matters were resolved and Orange Turban Wild Beard even bent low by my window to ask for pardon saying he was gareeb aadmi (a poor man ) and anyway my driver had no clue as to how to drive a car on the Highway . I don’t know what shocked me more ; his effrontery or (for what it was worth) his humility !!
But his face in my window brought back unwelcome and unsettling memories of another menacing one that had intimated and frightened me just a year ago ; no, not in Mumbai but in Delhi . Yes the Road rage capital.
I was in the private taxi provided by the excellent company that took care of my transportation needs in all my travels where ever in the country . Good, efficient and dependable drivers and road worthy vehicles that could tackle roads between Kochi and Kollam or Chandigargh and Ludhiana.
That evening , on my way back to my guest house in Jor Bagh from Apollo Hospital and on the Def Col flyover I am sure we escaped fate as close to how bad it was for the man in Khan Market yesterday. I don’t know why I have never spoken about this to anyone before this . Strange that yesterday’s news should have been followed by this morning’s incident and unlocked this stored away , scary memory. No accident this I suppose !!
Passing a set of traffic lights we were well onto the centre of the flyover when suddenly from nowhere at all a big black SUV with tinted glasses overtook us and came to a screeching halt right in front of us and a whole bunch of young men in dark glasses and jackets poured out of its rapidly opening doors . While the first one out came straight to the driver’s window the others simply surrounded the car . The door was yanked open and the driver pulled out by his collar . Believe me I have never known what the word “menacing” really meant till that second. Shaking him like a rag doll the first guy let out unrepeatable expletives at my driver and somehow I managed to make out the reason for this assault was that we had overtaken their vehicle at the lights .
For the life of me I cannot remember for how long this went on –the guy venting his furious ire , his companions at times egging him on and then suddenly asking him to let the poor bandha go and some of them peering inside to see if there was anyone inside they could pull out for some more show of aggressive what ever.
And for the life of me I do not know what made me open my door and step out into the horror movie unfolding before me . maybe it was knee jerk reaction maybe I felt the poor driver needed an ally or some kind of support for whatever it was worth !! Maybe I was just so foolish and dumb but I simply could not sit inside while they had their awful way with this young man who had been my trusted companion the last three days ferrying me from hospital to hospital in Delhi and far flung Rohini and Gurgaon .
So I got out but for the life of me cannot remember what I said – all I know is I grabbed the guy bothering my driver by his elbows from behind and he turned around and this I remember , his jaw dropped when he saw me !! I am sure they were surprised by this most unexpected ally their hapless victim seemed to have . I also remember I did not stop yelling at them till they all got back into their vehicle and drove off.
If I thought the driver would be in shock or upset or even say Madam thank you for saving my life oh no ! He just shrugged , dusted his shirt and tucked it back into his jeans , settled me in again and got into the driver’s seat and we were on our way.
Just another day in the office for him , I suppose in the Road Rage capital of the country.

Ps Not one soul stopped or came to our help all the while the guys were at it !!!!


Anonymous said...

How many times i have shamelessly continued when i have seen such incidents happening on the streets...


Anonymous said...

Frightening. Something similar happened a few years back when my driver refused to cut a red and was almost assaulted by the impatient fellow behind us.
God help us if the rest of the country ends up like Delhi.



Viji! How shocking! and how brave you were to have stepped out and dealt with those guys.

Terrible thing, road rage.

Anonymous said...

Terrific read Viji.

I am reminded of the time in 2009 when AZ put my heart in my throat. His lane sense is that of a greedy feudal lord.

Glad no major mishap.

Beena Narayanan said...

Viji, what an amazingly well written blog. I wish some school would add it in their curriculum for the students to learn essay writing.
The issue you have pointed out is a plague that has spread to wide in our populous country. The restuarant manager who got killed recently in Delhi is a striking example of a victim of road rage. Thank God you survived to tell the tale and to continue to lead us !!!

Meera's World said...

Good job:)