In the driver’s seat

In the driver’s seat

Notice how you can tell a lot about someone from the way they drive a vehicle? The over confident types will zoom ahead from the left only to be stopped in their tracks by a lone cyclist that they failed to notice or a parked car that suddenly materialized. The insane ones will overtake from the left at even more insane speeds and carry on regardless of any cyclist or pedestrian. They’ll just manage to save lives – their own and that of the hapless live obstacle, by the skin of their teeth. These types are in for a crash landing sooner than later. The driving-for-solace from – fill in the blank with any of the following; nagging spouse, time to kill, no hurry to reach, procrastinating – will keep the same speed on any kind of road but will irritate everyone equally. The righteous ones will insist on following every rule in the book and invite glares from others. The funniest types are those who talk to themselves as they drive – day dreamers obviously, thrashing out that dream deal with the client or making the winning point in an argument. And then there are some who sing or whistle on the go. Lucky chaps!

Over these years of driving every possible make of vehicle, except perhaps a truck, I have learnt that your driving style says a lot about how you are as a person. DJ drives like a king – calm, in control, steady and really aware. AJ is the kind of driver you’d think is the reason passenger insurance was invented for, but I admire her confidence at fast speeds. AW can drive as the situation demands which most of the time is needed-to-get-yesterday types. CS is an extremely alert driver and can drive hours in the morning without a wink of sleep the previous night. His alertness also extends to noticing a road toll booth with a distracted cash collector and passing through it without paying a penny. I have not had the privilege to ride with RW as driver, but I am sure she drives more to commute that to drive-drive, know what I mean? Much like her nature, she must be a very composed driver. Your truly tries to be technically perfect with – not cutting corners while turning, keeping to road lanes and reversing with the least amount of back n forth. And doing some chepa-chepi once in a while! 🙂

There is another thing interesting phenomenon I have started to notice these days. Especially since, I take all possible alternative routes while driving to and from work. Your temperament for that day will largely depend on the routes/roads you are driving your vehicle on and the experiences therein.

The other day, I was driving on the new direction-ed Main Street in Camp. The vehicles around me seemed to breeze past when the sundry cows, vendors and double parked cars looked like roadblocks to me. Their pace was impatient, flashy. Honking to warn as they overtook me did not seem like a nice thing to do, so they just counted on my alertness and zoomed ahead. You will find this happening typically on main roads that allow one-way traffic. Take the example of the road in front of Saras Baug that leads to Abhinav college chowk, or Bajirao road. This experience can unsettle folks and leave them excessively alert in everything they had planned for that morning.

As I reached deeper into Rasta Peth, the roads grew thinner due to the many encroachments. The traffic was heavy but slow, motorist honked without the intent to get ahead. They just honked to see if it widened the road any more than it was, I think. The occasional bus that navigates this narrow route takes sadistic pleasure in letting motorists trail behind, like a comet’s tail, without giving them the opportunity to get ahead. The folks in the tail would surly be grinding their teeth over this and may turn out having an irritable day. In all this, an enterprising fellow can spot an opening and zip ahead in the blink of an eye, narrowly missing an on coming vehicle and have his moment of glory.

Occasionally, one has a good day where one is able to miss the maximum pot holes, overtake a rickie who is floating along looking for passengers with minimum risk involved, and manage to get past a signal that just turned red leaving the rest behind. On better days one can decisively score over speed-n-screech kind of drivers who, in my observation, invariably drive smoky Yamahas. These types maintain a speed of 80 Kmph between obstacles which are 5 meters apart and they love to burn rubber so very often. These are days of mixed emotions, tiny victories and negligible losses.

On the best days though, which occurs once in several light years, there are rickshaw strikes, the roads are laid out like a dream, hope floats, and you wish you had that Hayabusa instead of your fuel efficient bike. The day passes in a haze of bliss nevertheless.

Expressways are a different ball game. The upmarket vehicles disappear in a blur in the right most lane, while the Indigos, Taveras and Omni’s zip along in the middle lanes. You can either be content where you are or chew your brains in frustration at the BMW that just went by. Or better convince yourself how fast you car travels compared to the huge trailers in the last lane. You meet some nuts sometimes, in Indicas or i10s, tiny cars who roar by in the fastest lane. The roar is more due to the overload that the engine is taking at such high speeds than the roar of pride at achieving it. You can only chuckle at such folks and find solace in your much safer driving practice.

The typical highways all over India are in mountainous terrain and by that virtue are very narrow.

I have yet to see a more disciplined lot than the army truck drivers in Leh and the bus drivers in the Gadhwal Kumaon region as well as in Sikkim. It takes immense patience, skill and a vicarious selflessness to drive like that. Not a honk or a squeak can be heard from those souls as they wait for several long minutes to let heavy vehicles pass or give priority to Army convoys.

Or for hours while a landslide or a layer of 6 feet thick snow gets cleared.

From Pune to Leh to Sikkim, each to his own I guess!

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