Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Horn OK Please

Flashback first. 

It took me only three sessions of professional driving classes spread over 8 years to learn how to drive.

An inspiring image that refuses to leave my mind is of my instructor hugging the door handle on his side. It showed his belief in my abilities; that my confidence behind the wheel would make him giddy … with excitement. He guided me very well, God bless that ex-truck driver. He told me that the roads in the hills will not straighten up just because a tiny, white car is coming. I have to turn the steering for that, know left from khai. He requested me not to put both feet on the floor of the car even when the radio played 'uthey sab key kadam'. He also made sure I understand that driving with the hand-brake up is by no way a safety procedure, that to reach 5 you need to go to 2-3-4 first and that the sequence is always ABC and CAB is only something I should call for whenever I am in the mood to drive (which he did not say, what a kind man). 

To cut a long distance short, I knew my ABC before I hit Delhi roads recently. I had to hit them, because someone had to pick my boy up from school. And I wanted it to be me. 

Just me

I wanted to keep it special. You know, like carrying a “new” toy (from the millions he has forgotten) and keeping it waiting in the car for him. Apple juice or mango juice, maybe a chocolate too. His favourite music ready to help him stay cheerful after a day’s hectic colouring-claying-crafting at school (Oh the burden of Nursery!). To chat with him over the nine kilometers asking what other mothers send for tiffins and thus keep him awake for lunch at home. Most of all, to see his face shine with happiness on seeing me from his class window. Hai! So romantic my idea was of finally being able to personally pick my child up from school. So romantic that it kept out from its loving whorls the reality of driving on Delhi roads. 

The reality.

Now, this reality did not just dawn on me. Within minutes of being behind the wheel, it was honked and honked up my ears because someone’s behind was on fire at the red light. At the red light!

Within seconds, a new Delhi driver like me had lost my virginity. 

I had rolled down my window and let my hand talk; made an air plane gesture. Only. That day I had returned home, with kid and all, and also with a deep understanding that everyone is about to miss their trains and no one wants to miss being the first to reach somewhere, anywhere, even if it meant only the next red light where Audi meets Zen meets tempo meets cycle rickshaw meets cycle meets 100-ka-10 book/tissuebox seller.

That point near zebra crossing being the biggest and the only leveller sans reservation in our country! 

Makes sense?
Initially, it used to take me full 15 minutes to just get out of my community’s gate and turn left towards the main road. Why? Nobody wanted me to get out of my colony! The left indicator went tic-tic in vain. Some drivers coming from the right would speed up suddenly and whizz past because ‘ladies log kyun first, bhai’ their manly monsters used to grumble. Some others started honking from 100 mts away to intimidate my racing car and make it cower backwards. As for turn, O kee honda hai?

There is no ‘right of way’ there is simply ‘stay right away from my way’!  

Silver lining.

As long as the Delhi belly is not pressing on the horn at red lights, those moments of pulling the handbrake and sitting around can be strangely interesting. At least one driver will be singing aloud, tapping multi-ringed fingers on the wheel, looking as much a mute moron from outside as the talkative RJ sounds inside-out. In your rear view mirror you may spot some reapplication of lip gloss in pout-unpout-pout-smile-pattern, but it could also be plucking of chin hair. If you are really lucky, you too may see the uncle ji I did at Naraina crossing once. At 17 seconds counting down, he suddenly chose to get out and stretch in slow motion, after unsuccessfully pulling his pants up properly from behind. The red ticker was counting down and he was still at scratching his balls, patting his Fiat Padmini’s bonnet lovingly and looking around lazily as if this is the echo point between Doon and Mussoorie offering him a view of the valley.

He certainly couldn’t have had a kid to pick! He did have two nostrils for the purpose. That is, just before the world (and me) almost drove over him and his reverie. 

To have an Earth mover raise its arm over your car makes you believe in God
An empty Ring Road without bottlenecks is like a red velvet cake – smooth and fun. Wait. An empty Ring Road? Is like a red unicorn. It’s all in the head, in children’s books or on another planet altogether. Often, bumper to bumper feels like dancing in a crowded disco, wanting to go-go-go all the way since time is ticking but well aware that any kind of bodily touch may not bode well. It happened once though, that touching.

The bum of a Scorpio which said in red ‘brother of ex-Vice President, Mandakini College’ brushed past the bosom of a car with a big redder bow-and-arrow and Sanskrit verses (no German!) on the back screen. A serious looking guy with his chest puffed to gargantuan proportions walked out from the bow-and-arrow, twirling his gold chain with the God on it. He surveyed the scratch, twisted his lower jaw to one side as he walked over to the ex-something culprit. I don’t know what the ex-something said from the rolled down window but this guy’s chest had gone from 53 to 35 and a meek smile had returned to the Sanskrit car. Some assi tussi kissi kitti had happened it seems. Phew! The power of being a Very Impotent Person had prevented an hour long fist-fight and many behens and mothers had been left alone at Dhaula Kuan. And then they say VIPs are arses! I say they are often some Very Important Parts of our lives!
Anyway, taking a short-cut now to tell you that after losing my virginity on Delhi roads with that hand gesture (air plane then, now slimmed down to a one-finger jet) I realized there was no more scope for foreplay left any more. I had to season myself and my tongue, update myself on Delhi Drivers’ Hand-y Book, and know that nosing or honking my way forward is not impolite, just like snatching parking spots from under another’s wheels is not. It is Darwin’s concept of ‘survival of the fittest’. 

Expecting too much from my skinny jeans!
I too have a sticker on my back screen. Not Shonu-Monu or 'Ma ka aashirwaad' or 'Jat Boyzz' or 'Dude di gaddi'. Mine simply reads - If you have a ‘Guru ji’ on your side, I have a ‘baby on board’ and he’s named after the highest note of the octave. You touch my car and the God on Raisina Hill will hear his child's clarion call!

Off I go now. I think I have stood my car in the middle of the road long enough to type this. Any well-meaning peeing man would have returned to his similarly parked vehicle by now.

OK. Tata Bye bye. Phir milengey, bumper-to-bumper!

[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts. The prompt for today was  - Sink or Swim - Tell us about a time when you were left on your own, to fend for yourself in an overwhelming situation — on the job, at home, at school. What was the outcome?


  1. Ha Ha Ha Audi meets Zen meets tempo meets cycle rickshaw meets cycle meets 100-ka-10 book/tissuebox seller"is so bludy apt! Yesterday was long drive to C.P. and back and I met them all.

  2. Yes, phir milenge... blog to blog... another ticklish one and I loved reading it.

    Arvind Passey

  3. Horn Ok Please is such a fun title. All those one-liners at the back of trucks are so funny!

    Menace of drivers on the roads, and the condition of roads themselves - I don't want to drive. I think I prefer haggling with autowallahs in Gurgaon than battling these very auto wallahs and other uncles and auntyjis on the roads.

    1. Driving is one of the most stressful exercises, certainly for me. 'Battling' is quite an appropriate word to be using. :D
      Thanks for reading, S.

  4. OK! I kid you not - but this is true. We have this fantastic Toll highway # 407-ETR and I am driving off to my 8am steering committee meeting with the CIO and others like him, high powered, you know. I am late, as per normal, so I am NOT dawdling on this highway where the speed limit is a laughable 100kmph.

    I am passed on my left by this car. In the car is a girl. In the girls hand is a mascara brush. She passes me by, looks at me and continue to apply mascara. She must have been doing at least 160.

    In another incident: I am stopped at a red light. Car pulls up next to me. Girl driving looks at me. Takes off her shirt. Reaches back. Finds another, puts it on. Looks at me, smiles. Then the lights turned green and I drove on to work.

    Both stories are 100% true.

    You are brave to brave Delhi traffic. The Ring Road was crowded back when I lived as a child in Lajpat Nagar III. I'm talking early 60's, Yeah, Yeah Yeah Beatles era....

    1. OMG! I need to meet both those women drivers to learn the tricks of the trade. (You can come along if you will!). Commendable, how well and safely they can multi-task/prioritise. :D But then, we women are talented like that!
      The Ring Road decides to surprise you with bottle-necks, depending on where the Metro work shifts for the day. It's going to be chaos for a few more years, I hear.
      Early 60s? Hm. No comments. :D
      Thanks for reading, Slo.

    2. Yesirree bob! I was in Kindergarten in FAPS across the Ring Road from LN-III

      Frank Anthony's Public School had me for a whole year and I thought the grounds were absolutely huge. I came back to see it aged 20 and it was absolutely tiny...

      I'd definitely like to meet the second girl, the one changing shirts - she had nice talents...

    3. Ah! FAPS boys used to climb over the wall over-looking LSR's boundary wall and wait with white flower offerings for the goddesses passing by.

      By the way, even Mr. Bean can dress for office in his teeny car. No 'talent' there, but it's still funny. You must watch it. :D

  5. Beautifully phrased and mind tickling too. Strange to learn that people do so many things while driving.

    1. Oh they do much more! But somewhere this post was dragging at the speed of 5km/hr so I just stopped. :D
      Thanks, Fayaz!

  6. Phir milengey, bumper-to-bumper? :D Love how you have written this; that bumper to bumper kiss awaits every car :D
    May there be a day when the not-so-fit will also have a chance :)

    1. :D SO happy you liked this. Good to see you here.

  7. Brilliant introductory lines. Forget Jat Boyzzz, just add a sticker saying MEDIA or ARMY and enjoy a smooth ride.

    1. A separate post on 'Government of India', 'PRESS', 'ARMY' and 'POLICE' coming up! :D
      Thank you, Alka.

  8. Hahahahah. I don't have a comment worthy to describe this one. For now I'll just say I'm privileged to have ever stumbled upon your blog.


    1. Oh my! Thank you, CRD. This post is really not one of my best ones (written under duress and what not!). But I'm happy to receive this compliment. :)
      Thank you!!!!

  9. There is no ‘right of way’ there is simply ‘stay right away from my way’! Loove this line, Sakshi Nanda. This post is cherry on the cake, if you don't think it's the best, fearless lady aur ek beta ki Maa:) I am alien to the ones leaving the behen aur Maa ki galli'yan at home. Yeah! It's shame coz u 30 plus friend still don't know how to drive coz he has this phobia of learning the Car'nama on hot wheels.
    I am the biggest phatu when it comes to learn driving..ab bhagwan bachaye mere ko:)

    1. Ha ha ha! Good to read your confession, Vishal. In case you are planning to not be a 'phatu' and drive one day, don't begin with Delhi. Either there are the kind of drivers I have described above, or there are ones like me. :D
      Thanks for reading!

  10. I am 26 and haven't yet learned driving. I just have very low patience levels and I think I'd make a very bad driver especially in Delhi. Your post reminded me of my swimming lessons though. I have perfected the art of flailing my arms in water without moving an inch in the desired direction.

    Hilarious post. Great blog. :)

    1. Low patience levels make a 'good' driver in Delhi. Certainly a very 'successful' one if you ask me. :D Of course, swimming and not moving forward in a pool is still pleasing compared to swimming in traffic and getting no where.
      Thank you for coming by. Good to see you here!

  11. That was such an enjoyable read. You do have a flair for great descriptions and humour. My goodness, I wouldn't have your courage to drive in Delhi. Sounds treacherous! I find winter driving in Ottawa, Ontario Canada where I live bad enough and I'm sure I don't have all the traffic to contend with like you do. Not too many rickshaws around in January for example.

    1. Every time my family living overseas visits us here, in New Delhi, they keep their eyes tightly shut as they are driven from one place to another. I guess in this madness only those who are a part of it can see any method. Even if we don't, wherein lies the choice? :)
      I have a LOT of traffic to contend with, Cathy - slow-moving, speeding and all in between too, on the same pot-holed road.
      Thank you for stopping by!

  12. hahaha..too funny: love your post! I hear bits of rant like a rap or the like, the rhythm of the words...don't know if you intended that, but I love it! ;) And by the way, do they really park THAT close as in the photo above?! ;) <3


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