On February 27th, i reached home in a mood in which i could effortlessly have decapitated someone with my bare hands. No, i usually don’t feel violent like that. [Aside: Although, i’ll admit, i have a temper which can get a little nasty sometimes, that nastiness usually restricts itself to sarcasm, and other such verbally brutal stuff. of course, it can be argued that that kind of nasty can sometimes do more harm, but still…i mean i usually don’t get violent.] And i generally tend to consider losing my temper with/on/about/whatever traffic and/or people on the road an absolute waste of time and energy. But of course that day i did lose my temper while driving. And lost it enough to actually lower the window and yell at somebody. i don’t know what to call these creatures…i mean, they defy any attempt at defining them/their level of intelligence. Let me elaborate.
Picture the Nungambakkam high road, Chennai. Those familiar with it know that it’s a paavam 4 lane road trying desperately to cope with the traffic that needs an eight lane super-main road (yes, my own term, thank you very much). Every imaginable kind of vehicle passes through this road, and unless its 1:00 a.m. you’re going to be dealing with some amount of traffic. During peak hours, it’s a nightmare. Everyone is clamoring to get into that 1 inch of space that got vacated 2 milliseconds ago, which in my opinion, is bad enough. Add to that, an MTC bus pulling out of a bus stand. [Aside: In Chennai, buses pull out of stops by rather quickly and severely turning the steering wheel to the right so that the bus may get into the lane closest to the median. It does this, or rather, let’s not blame the poor automobiles, they are made to do this irrespective of the traffic conditions. since its a bus, everyone else has to slow down, stop, crawl, do whatever it takes to avoid getting rammed against other vehicles or the median (there are other possibilities…but i have not the patience to list them out here).] So back to Nungambakkam…i’m inching along the median, just about past the bus stop at St.Teresa’s church, and the bus that was there starts to pull out. At this time, we are almost parallel to each other. i know how these things pull out, so i slow down, and eventually stop. the fucking asshole of a driver closes his eyes and starts turning the steering wheel till he’s almost at 45 degrees to the median with me in that angular space, getting wedged between the bus and the median…don’t think i wasn’t honking…it was like my fingers were stuck to the horn….the fucker heard me just in time. 2 more seconds and my car would’ve been badly damaged. he looked into his mirror as if looking around for an annoying mosquito buzzing in his ear, sees me through the mirror…and i’m yelling at him from inside the car, he can see that too, it’s his fucking mistake, he knows that as well; he gives me this blank look – the i-don’t-see-anything-i-don’t-know-anything-i-am-free-of-any-guilt-because-i-have-no-brains-anyway look – and turns to the left and out of my way…i only wish he could’ve heard me shouting at him.
i also wish that was the only thing that happened that evening. But no! Less than 15mins later, on Poonamallee highroad, another fucker “looks” and almost drives straight into my car. He broke out of his trance when his rearview mirror made contact with mine. This was too frikking much. i lowered my window…
Me: WTH do you think you are doing?!!!
Him: *innocence* What?
Me: You wont look or what when you are driving?
Him: But I looked…I was looking…
Me: And what, you couldn’t see me? You looked, that’s why your car nudged mine??
Him: It was a light touch
Me: Oh, it takes a “light touch” to know there’s another car? And what if there was “light damage”? Will you “lightly” pay? (Ok i didn’t actually say the last two questions out loud, but i was saying it pretty loudly in my brain)
Him: *err…i-don’t-see-anything-i-don’t-know-anything-i-am-free-of-any-guilt-because-i-have-no-brains-anyway look*
Ok, so maybe the bus thing can and does happen to anyone on the road regardless of gender. But what about the blithering idiot in the car?? i swear, the next person who says to me that women drive badly will get one tight slap from me. Today, i can’t think of a single woman i know, or that i have seen driving, who is not better than 90% of the men who drive. Cars, bikes, jeeps, whatever. (That is not to say that women never drive badly…there are people who drive badly, some of them happen to be women. i don’t see three bad male drivers and immediately say yeah, the male of the species are just terrible drivers. and i expect you NOT to judge all women based on the very very few women you have seen) i hate the bloody stereotyping…a man driving badly is an impossibility (or at the most, an exception) and a woman driving well is a miracle, and extremely uncharacteristic. random guys have come up to me at traffic signals and told sincerely and appreciatively that i ride the bike like a guy (and please, reserve your comments about the implications of a random guy complimenting me on the road. i think i know the difference between when a guy means what he says and says some well rehearsed, politically correct thing while his attention is actually on mentally seeing through my shirt). It used to piss me off then, and it pisses me off now. i have seen a definite difference in the attitude of driving instructors as well. Men, it seems, are genetically endowed with great driving capabilities, while women must learn how to not smash up the car whilst moving it from point A to point B. A woman who Enjoys driving?? Say whaa?? Just so you know, there are a lot of women out there who not only enjoy driving but also find it relaxing.
i know i seem to have moved from one topic to another totally unconnected topic. But i say there is a connection. The response is so different when it’s a guy driving. Because, if it’s a woman behind the wheel or the handlebar, she can be taken for granted. Even if something goes wrong, she’s not going to make a noise about it. Even if she makes a noise about it, she can be easily intimidated and/or ignored. You can always say that it was the woman’s fault. Why is she out on the road? If she can’t cope with the traffic, she should stay at home. Anyway, as a woman, can’t she be a little more careful? If there’s a guy along, why isn’t he riding/driving? And, oh yeah, most importantly, women cannot drive so why bother saying anything at all to them. Worse comes to worst, you can always swear at them which will make them cry and then they go away. And when you see some car being badly driven, “oh, it must be a woman driver.” And if it turns out to be a guy, “oh, but that’s Like a woman driver.” It’s so much more complex when it’s between two guys; you are under pressure to prove that you are alpha-er than the other guy. But with a woman, there’s no question at all, right? You have a penis, so naturally, she is negligible, and, oh yeah, wrong.
There is so much chauvinism on the road its not even funny anymore. If a woman overtakes you from the right side of the road, you HAVE TO HAVE TO cut in front of her. What a blow to the ego. How will you live with yourself? If a woman slows down because she sees something on the road that you can’t see because you are behind her, fuck! honk her out of the way i say! And then find satisfaction in braking suddenly to avoid an accident because you just saw what you hadn’t seen because your car was behind hers. i hope she smiles a “have fun, jackass” smile as she goes past you. i’ve done it. It feels bloody good. Oh, another time…driving on a high speed road, some dude decides to change lanes and come into mine without looking into his rearview mirror. i catch the movement and honk. It surprises him, “oh! There’s another vehicle in that lane which is also going at a high speed.” I slow down a bit. He teeters slightly but he’s fine. He slows down. i go past him. Next thing i know, the jackass is beside me, trying to intimidate me. And in his, shall we say, “passion,” he comes dangerously close to my car. i’m like WTF! i slow down a bit. Boi goes in front, turns around, sees it’s a woman…OMG!!!! “passion” ; increases. Turns around again, shows me a pretty finger, calls me a bitch and comes right in front of my car and slows down. On a frikking high speed road he’s playing to his ego! He looks menacingly at me through his rearview mirror. i take off my glasses (yeah, i wear sunglasses while driving…it gets bright for women too you know) and stare right back at him…and press the horn and i don’t let go. Two can play this annoying game. After appeasing himself he starting picking up speed. i’m sorry, but I’m not done yet. i follow him, with my hand on the horn (Apologies to all the others on the road. The noise is pretty bad, i know; but sometimes you have to talk to asses in their own language, else they don’t understand). He tries to get out of my way, i don’t let him. i followed him right till a signal where he had to turn and i needed to go straight. Yes, it felt good, thank you for asking.
There are a countless such experiences. If i were to decide to write a book on women’s experiences on the road, i would never stop writing, the book would never get finished, it would never go for print…OR the volumes would just keep coming until the end of time. Gah! But sometimes even writing doesn’t help.